The Phillies aren't done yet. They Phils are still alive as they carry their playoff dreams to Atlanta, where tonight they will begin a four-game series that will determine their fate. They trail the Braves by 5 1/2 games with 11 remaining. But seven of those 11 come against the Braves. The Braves can clinch the division this weekend, or the Phillies can make the race a bit more interesting.
"The most important game of the season is tomorrow," Rhys Hoskins said after last night's win.
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The Phillies season will be determined this weekend in Atlanta, but don't expect manager Gabe Kapler to gather his team for a rousing pregame speech like the one Herb Brooks delivered in Miracle.
"I think mostly, just as we've done for most of the year if not all the year, a lot of individual conversations," Kapler said. "Individual conversations with starters and guys who need a boost and guys who have done a really good job and just need a pat on the back. Those conversations are happening all the time. I'm not sure anything specific or additional to what we're doing already."
The Phillies will have to win at least three of four against the Braves to keep the final week interesting. A series loss would give the Braves a clinch of the division, and a series split would lower Atlanta's magic number to two. The Phillies knew before they took the field Wednesday night that Atlanta had won earlier in the afternoon, which gave their game against the Mets a must-win feel.
"We know we have to win baseball games, and that's really as simple as it gets," Hoskins said. "We're in a pretty unique position. An exciting position that doesn't happen all that often, but as a competitor, that's all you can ask for. You control your own destiny. We like where we're at. It's going to be a fun and really, really competitive and intense series."
Hoskins made news this week by signing with super-agent Scott Boras, who also represents potential future Phillie Bryce Harper. Hoskins is still a while from hitting free agency, but he said he would like to stay in Philadelphia for his career.
Hoskins' first-inning homer Wednesday helped push the Phillies past the Mets. The game was crucial, and if the Phillies needed a reminder, there was this message outside their clubhouse: This is not over. It's going to take hard work, heart and pride. Together we can do this.
The Phillies still have a playoff dream in Atlanta, but that dream would feel a bit more real if they had J.A. Happ or Cole Hamels, the great Bob Brookover writes. The Phillies passed on adding a starting pitcher at the trade deadline and instead chose to rely on Vince Velasquez, Zach Eflin, and Nick Pivetta. "For all the analytical advances we've seen in baseball during this century, the one thing that still adds up to a lot of wins is outstanding starting pitching," Brooky wrote.
Tonight: Vince Velasquez faces Atlanta righthander Kevin Gausman, 7:35 p.m.
Tomorrow: Nick Pivetta vs. righthander Julio Teheran, 7:35 p.m.
Saturday: Jake Arrieta vs. lefthander Sean Newcomb, 1:05 p.m.
Sunday: Aaron Nola vs. righthander Mike Foltynewicz, 1:35 p.m.
Hoskins continued his success this month against Noah Syndergaard on Wednesday night, as he homered against the Mets pitcher for the second time in 11 days. He added a double in the third inning to become the first player since Freddie Freeman on Sept. 19, 2016 to have two extra-base hits against Syndergaard. Hoskins has the highest career OPS (1.949) of any batter who has at least 10 plate appearances against Syndergaard.
"I think there's something about velocity that simplifies things," Hoskins said. "Obviously, the guy throws pretty hard and gives you less time to think."
Question: Saw the Phillies activated Aaron Loup from the disabled list on Tuesday and the active roster will then be at the maximum of 40 players. Probably not something anybody keeps track of, but has this ever happened before? It seems like it would be pretty rare. Either you have someone on the disabled list, or maybe you're protecting a minor leaguer from the Rule 5 draft, or maybe you have a minor leaguer who didn't have a good year and just didn't merit a September 1 call-up, or some other reason I can't think of at the moment. Clyde H., email question.