MLB Wild Card: Phillies can pass Padres but better avoid Mets – NBC Sports

Phillies can still get past Padres this week but probably shouldn't - NBC Sports

The Phillies begin their final series of the regular season on Monday night with a magical number of one and a chance to climb even higher in the standings.

The Padres are 87-72. The Phillies are 86-73. The Brewers are 84-75 and the first team out of the playoffs.

The Phils have a two-game tiebreaker lead over the Brewers, meaning Milwaukee’s only path to the postseason is to sweep the Diamondbacks at home while the Phillies are swept in Houston. Anything short will result in the Phillies ending their 10-year playoff drought.

But the Phils also own the tie over the Padres so the second wild card spot is within reach. All they have to do to overtake the Padres is finish a game better than the final three to tie them in the standings. The Padres host the Giants Monday through Wednesday.

As far as first round opponents go, the Phillies would probably be better off finishing as the 6 seed. If they finish in that spot, they will play the Cardinals in a First Round Best-of-Three game with all three games in St. If they finish as the 5 seed, they would play the Mets on the road in that Best of Three.

The Mets are now all but certain to end up with the top wild card spot after being knocked out of the NL East lead this weekend by the Braves. The Braves not only have a two game lead over the Mets but the sweep won Atlanta the season series, 10-9. The only way for the Mets to win the division now is to sweep the Nationals while the Marlins sweep the Braves.

Thus, if the Phillies finish with the 5 seed, they would face the Mets. They went 5-14 against the Mets this season and 4-3 against the Cardinals, who are six games behind the Mets overall.

In a playoff series against the Mets, the Phillies would see Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer straight out of the chute, which could wrap things up quickly. DeGrom and Scherzer pitched Friday and Saturday so they will be on normal rest to start the first two games of a first-round series.

The Phillies beat the Mets the last two times they faced Scherzer, but there is a marked difference between pulling deGrom, Scherzer and Chris Bassitt versus pulling Adam Wainwright, Jordan Montgomery and Miles Mikolas.

And if you win that series against the Mets … your reward is the Dodgers. The playoffs do not re-seed, so the winner of the series between the 4- and 5-seeds draws top-ranked LA.

The Phils won’t mess up, however, they’re just focused on clinching. Once they do, maybe then they can look forward to the matching situation. If the Padres win their own series this weekend, it’s likely a moot point because the Phillies would need to sweep a 104-win Astros team to change the standings.

The most dangerous aspect of the Cardinals is the middle of their order with Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado. Goldschmidt, however, slowed down after raking in his first 120 games. Over his last 29 games and 120 plate appearances, the likely NL MVP is hitting .231 with a .681 OPS, striking out 30 times. Arenado in September hit .220 with a .649 OPS.

That’s not to say that plenty of other hitters in the St. Louis lineup can’t hurt you, just that their two biggest bats would be entering a playoff series relatively cold. The Cardinals have scored two runs or less in eight of their last 13 games.

But before worrying about the Cardinals or Mets, the Phillies need to do their part in Houston. They don’t even need to win a game to clinch, but it would make things easier than scoreboard-watching days in a row.

Aaron Nola (10-13, 3.36) fights Lance McCullers Jr. (4-1, 2.38) Monday at 8:10 pm The Brewers play at 7:40 pm and the Padres at 9:40.

In Game 2, the Phillies will see Justin Verlander, who is 17-4 with the best ERA and WHIP in the majors. In the season finale, they will face Framber Valdez, who set the major league record this season with 25 consecutive quality starts. Even if their appearances are shortened, they will be tough for the Phils.

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