MLB Wild Card: Phillies one of the best teams in baseball since Bryce Harper’s injury – NBC Sports

MLB Wild Card: Phillies one of the best teams in baseball since Bryce Harper's injury - NBC Sports

Bryce Harper’s injury in San Diego on June 25th had a chance to sink the Phillies’ season, just as Andrew McCutchen’s injury in San Diego in June 2019 did just that.

The Phillies won their first game without Harper — an important win because it clinched the season series against the Padres, who could count for tying goals — then lost two in a row to the Braves and were 39-37.

At that point, the Phillies were down their best player and trailed seven teams in the National League. They were two games behind the Giants, three behind the Cardinals, 4½ behind the Brewers and 6½ behind the Padres.

They went 21-11 later to jump ahead of the Giants, Brewers and Padres and move into a tie with the Cardinals. The Phillies now have a 92.8% chance of making the playoffs, according to Baseball-Reference simulator.

There’s a lot of baseball left — 54 games, exactly a third of the season — but the Phils are playing well collectively, getting contributions from the entire roster and heading toward the playoffs in a way they haven’t since 2011.

“It’s nothing against the teams we’ve had here in the past, but I think we’ve got a better team,” said Rhys Hoskins, who homered in a fourth straight game on Sunday and was feeling fine after being hit on the right bicep of one mid-90s fastball.

“I think we’re deeper. I think with the additions we made at the deadline, we just got better players. You look at teams that have won and won a lot, especially later in the year, everybody’s deep. One guy can go down and another guy steps in. I like our depth this year and I think it’s going to really help us and hopefully carry us into October.”

The Phillies’ rosters from 2018 to 2021 were expensive with outstanding individual performers, but the team was top-heavy with little depth in key areas. Last summer, they were worn by Harper for three months. This summer, the production came from almost every region — some nights it was the starter, some nights the bullpen, some nights a young position player, some nights a high-priced vet, some nights all of the above.

Since Harper’s injury, the Phillies have hit the fifth most home runs in the majors and scored the sixth most runs. They have the seventh-best record, but only three teams — the Astros, Dodgers and Mariners — have a record more than a game better than the Phillies’ 21-13 record without Harper.

“I think we’re better equipped,” manager Rob Thomson said after Sunday’s win. “Every team is different. I know in the last few years we haven’t played well in September, but every team has been a little bit different, it hasn’t been the same exact group. This is a different group. There’s a lot of leadership in the clubhouse and many winners on the field.”

Only 19 of the Phillies’ remaining 54 games come against teams with winning records, and three of those games are the final three of the season with the Astros, who could already be in rest mode if they or the Yankees solidify the top seed inside . the American League then.

This weekend’s results not only pushed the Phillies up a spot in the wild card standings but also made the Braves up for grabs. While the Phils swept the Nationals, the Braves lost four of five to the Mets. The Phillies are now three back of the Braves with seven more head-to-head meetings left, all from September 16-25. While there is little difference between the second and third wild card spots, the top wild card team gets home field advantage in their first playoff series, so it will be worth chasing until the end.

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