The Phillies begin the final weekend of the season with a little bit better than a 50-50 shot of making the playoffs. Their chances are 50.8%, according to Fangraphs.
This past Sunday morning, before they went on to lose four straight games, the Phillies’ playoff chances were at 87%. Following those four losses, they plummeted to 33.5%.
There’s going to be a ton of scoreboard watching around the league this weekend. The NL teams ranked sixth through ninth are still separated by only one game.
Vince Velasquez and the 28-29 Phillies face Charlie Morton and the 37-20 Rays tonight in the opener of a three-game series in Tampa. The Rays are 17-9 at home and have not been swept in a series of at least three games anywhere this season.
Do the Rays have anything left to play for this weekend? Debatable. They are the 1-seed with a two-game lead on the Twins and a 2½-game lead on the Athletics. But there is no big benefit to finishing the 1-seed as opposed to the 2- or 3-seed this season. There is home-field advantage for the top four seeds in each league in the first round but that’s it. After that, every team moves to the bubble cities.
Here are the games Phillies fans should keep an eye on Friday, ranked in order of importance:
The Padres are locked into the 4-seed in the National League, thus they have little to play for in their four-game series in San Francisco.
The Giants have everything to play for. They begin the series 28-28, a half-game ahead of the Phillies. The Phils possess the crucial tiebreaker over the Giants.
The Padres are starting two of their best tonight in Dinelson Lamet and Chris Paddack. The question is how long either one will go and how much their top position players will play. Fernando Tatis Jr. sat Thursday, for what it’s worth.
The Giants blew a multi-run lead and stranded the bases loaded late Thursday in an extra-inning loss to the Rockies.
This doubleheader begins at 7:10 p.m.
Marlins at Yankees
The Phillies could use some help this weekend from the 32-25 Yankees, who are two games back of the White Sox for the 4-seed and home-field advantage.
The White Sox hold the tiebreaker (divisional record), so the only way for the Yankees to move ahead into the 4-seed is by sweeping the Marlins as the White Sox are swept by the Cubs.
The same opportunity exists for the 8-seed Blue Jays, who would move ahead of the Yankees into second place in the AL East if they sweep and the Yankees are swept.
It means that the Yankees will still have something to play for against 29-28 Miami.
The Phillies lose the head-to-head tiebreaker to the Marlins because they dropped seven of 10 meetings this season. It means the Phillies must pick up two games on Miami this weekend. If the Phillies go 3-0, they need the Marlins to go 1-2 or worse to move into second place. If they go 2-1, they need the Marlins to lose all three.
Reds at Twins
The Reds are one game better than the Phillies and have clinched the tiebreaker. Both teams went 21-19 in divisional games so the next tiebreaker is the most recent 20 divisional games. The Reds went 12-8 and the Phillies went 8-12.
The Twins have slightly more to play for than the Rays this weekend. At 35-22, Minnesota is the 2-seed but only a game ahead of the White Sox. If the Twins move back to the 4-seed their first-round opponent would likely be the Yankees, a team that has ended their postseason dreams four times in a row and six of the last seven times the Twins made the playoffs.
The Reds plan to finish the season by pitching NL Cy Young-hopeful Trevor Bauer on short rest.
Same scenario as described above with the Marlins: The only way the Phillies can move ahead of the Reds is by gaining two games on them this weekend.
The most optimal result for the Phillies would be a split between these teams Friday night. Game 1 begins at 5:15 p.m.
If St. Louis (28-26) and Milwaukee (27-29) split and the Phillies win Friday, the Phils would be only a half-game behind the Cardinals. They’d also be one game up on the Brewers with possession of the tiebreaker.