MLB Wild Card: Phillies Can Pass Padres, But Better Avoid Mets

The Phillies kick off their final series of the regular season Monday night with a magical number one and a chance to even rise 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 route into the postseason is to beat the Diamondbacks at home, while the Phillies get a sweep in Houston. Anything short will lead to the Phillies ending their 10-year playoff drought.

But the Phils also have the tiebreaker over the Padres, so the second wildcard spot is achievable. All they need to do to get past the Padres is finish a match better than the last three to get them tied in the standings. The Padres host the Giants Monday through Wednesday.

In terms of first-round opponents, the Phillies would probably be better off with the 6-seed. If they finish in that spot, they’ll play the Cardinals in a first-round Best of Three game with all three games in St. Louis. If they finish as the 5 seed, they would play the Mets on the road in that Best of Three.

The Mets are now pretty sure they will take the top wildcard spot after being swept out of the NL East leader by the Braves this weekend. Not only do the Braves have a two game lead over the Mets, but the sweep won Atlanta the season 10-9. The only way for the Mets to win the division now is to beat the Nationals, while the Marlins beat the Braves.

So if the Phillies ended up with the 5 seed, they would be going up against the Mets. They went 5-14 against the Mets and 4-3 against the Cardinals this season, who are a total of six games behind the Mets.

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

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

And if you win that series against the Mets… your reward is the Dodgers. The playoffs will not reseed, so the winner of the series between the 4 and 5 seeds draws LA with the highest seeded

The Phils aren’t going to mess around, they’re just focused on clinching. Once they’ve done that, they may be able to look ahead to the matchup situation. If the Padres win their own series this weekend, it’s probably a moot point, as the Phillies would have to beat a 104 win Astros team to change the standings.

The most dangerous aspect of the Cardinals is the center of their order with Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado. Goldschmidt, however, has slowed down after raking in his first 120 games. In his last 29 games and 120 at bats, the likely NL MVP has batted .231 with a .681 OPS, striking out 30 batters. Arenado reached .220 in September with a .649 OPS.

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

But before they worry about the Cardinals or Mets, the Phillies need to do their part in Houston. They don’t even need to win a match to win, but it would make things easier than looking at the scoreboard for days on end.

Aaron Nola (10-13, 3.36) opposes 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 PM.

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 abbreviated, they will be hard on the Phils.

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