Looking at Phils Schedule Down the Stretch

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The Phillies have but 19 games remaining (although that seems like a LOT given they way they've closed the gap on the rest of the teams in the Wild-Card Race lately). Philadelphia is tied with the Brewers, with both teams three games back of the Cardinals for the second WC spot. Pittsburgh is just ahead of both teams, 2.5 games back of St. Louis. And Los Angeles, losers of three straight and fading in the National League West, are a game back of the Cards.

Let's look at the rest of the Phils games

@ Astros (45-98) - four-game series, 9/13-9/16: You can't ask for much more if you're the Phils, than to play more than a fifth of your remaining games against the worst team in baseball. These games are at even more of a premium too, because when the Phillies are playing the Astros, it means Houston is not going against other foes in the division, three of which are involved heavily in the Wild-Card Race. Can't overstate how huge this series, which begins Thursday, is for Philly.

@ Mets (65-78) - three-game series, 9/17-9/20: New York's lost six-straight games and is tailspinning  towards the basement of the NL East. That's great news for the Phils. The bad news is that the Brewers get them before the Phils. It'd be nice for Philly if the Mets could show some life before collapsing again.

vs. Braves (81-63) - three-game series, 9/21-9/23: A critical series, and not just because it's the Braves. Atlanta plays Washington in their next series, and that means they could find themselves closer to being out of the division race (and closer to the WC) or suddenly pushing hard to catch the Nats. Fascinating to see how it effects the Phils.

vs. Nationals (89-54) - three-game series, 9/25-9/27: Another critical series! Ha, I kid. These are all pretty important. As with the Braves series, how this plays out will likely be determined by what's going on with the top of the NL East. If Atlanta goes big against Washington, the Nats could be pressing for the division lead. If Washington wins the series, they might be setting up their playoff rotation and getting guys healthy, which could result in easier wins for Philly.

@ Marlins (63-81) - three-game series, 9/28-9/30: It never hurts to get a series against the worst team in the division, now does it?

@ Nationals (89-54) - three-game series, 10/1-10/3: This one is really interesting. If the Nats have clinched the division, they're probably not trotting out their best pitchers and players unless they're simply setting up their rotation. It's weird to root for the Nats to clinch, but that behooves the Phils for this series, the previous one aside, obviously.

The Cards get six games against the Astros down the stretch, which wipes out the Phils four-game series. But they start a four-game series against the Dodgers on Thursday, which means that someone is going to lose ground in the race if the Phillies keep winning. A three-game series against the Nats also awaits St. Louis (see what I mean about pulling for Washington?) as does a three-game series against the NL Central-leading Reds to close out the season, though Cincy will have likely clinched by then.

L.A., as mentioned, kicks things off with four games against the Cardinals. A split in this series wouldn't be awful for the Phils if, again, the Phightins keep winning. A six-game road stretch against the Nats and Reds is tough for the Dodgers after that. They get three games against the Padres in San Diego and a three-game series against the Rockies at home, which is their version of the Astros. Both those teams stink. And L.A. closes out against the Giants, who will probably also have clinched by then, but don't usually trot out bad pitchers in most cases.

Pittsburgh's fading like crazy right now, though they get a chance to right the ship against the Cubs, who they start a four-game series with on Friday. Then again, Chicago buried them earlier this month on a weekend sweep. Three games against the Brewers are good for the Phils for "not-gaining-ground-versus-a-cupcake" purposes. But the Pirates get a real shot at getting on a roll with seven-straight games against the Astros and Mets, even if they are on the road. They close out with three-game homestands against the Reds and Braves, which isn't easy, barring a clinching scenario.

Milwaukee's got a tough row to hoe: three games at home against the Mets starting on Friday is nice, but then they go on a 10-game road trip to Pittsburgh (3), Washington (4) and Cincy (3). That's a tough slate. Of course, closing out with a six-game homestand against the Astros and Padres makes up for it; Philly needs Milwaukee to get knocked out of the race on that road trip.

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