I’ve said that making playoff predictions is a sucker’s game. Anything can happen and anyone who says that the best team from the regular season is a lock to win the World Series is ignorant of recent history. That said, I’m having a hard time seeing who is going to pose a serious challenge to the Phillies.
Roy Halladay dominated the Brewers last night, allowing one run on four hits in eight innings while striking out nine. I suppose it’s possible that he broke a sweat, but they could probably just hang his jersey up in his locker for his next start without laundering it.
Overall, the Phillies have won five straight, with those five coming against two of their three potential playoff opponents, the Braves and Brewers. They also took two of three from Arizona in mid-August. Their season record against all of those teams is a bit more balanced than that, but even if the concept of recency is not a controlling one for purposes of the playoffs, it sure makes a hell of an impression.
Who’s gonna beat ’em? And how?
So much for a last-minute, nail-biting finish to this division race. The Braves cemented their division title with a dominant 5-3 finish over the Phillies on Saturday, laying claim to the NL East title for the first time since 2013.
The Braves asserted themselves right off the bat after amassing a four-run lead from Johan Camargo and Freddie Freeman, both of whom cleared the bases with two-run singles in the first two innings. Ronald Acuna Jr., meanwhile, found another way to make his presence known after swiping his 15th stolen base of the year and joining Alex Rodriguez, Orlando Cepeda, and Mike Trout as one of the youngest players to collect at least 25 home runs and 15 stolen bags in major league history.
Not to be outdone, Atlanta right-hander Mike Foltynewicz delivered one of the strongest starts of his season to date. The righty set down six innings of no-hit ball against the Phillies, and, with just 62 pitches under his belt, looked ready to go the distance before he lost his bid on Odubel Herrera‘s leadoff single in the seventh.
Unfortunately for the Braves, the Phillies not only upended Foltynewicz’s no-hit attempt, but the shutout as well. In the eighth inning, Cesar Hernandez and Rhys Hoskins wrestled two RBI singles from Atlanta’s bullpen and brought Philadelphia within one run of tying the game. Hoskins was the last Phillies batter to reach base, however, as Jonny Venters and Arodys Vizcaino tossed a combined 1 2/3 scoreless innings (backed by a final RBI hit from Kurt Suzuki in the bottom of the eighth) to cap the Braves’ win — and the NL East title.
With the loss, the Phillies sit seven games back of a wild card spot in the National League. They’ll need to outpace the Diamondbacks, Rockies, and Cardinals in order to make 2018 their first postseason-qualifying year since 2011.