Looking at the Phillies’ schedule and pitching down the stretch

Forty-five games. That’s all that’s left in the Philadelphia Phillies’ thus-far magical season. They enter today in a statistical tie for first place with the Atlanta Braves. Gabe Kapler’s squad has been in this spot, or led the division, every day since July 10.

Currently the Braves hold a 64-51 record with a .557 winning percentage while the Phillies sit 65-52 with a .556 winning percentage. They have the second and third best records in the National League. The Nationals, meanwhile, are just five games back at 60-58 with a .505 winning percentage.

Let’s look at how the coming months break down:

Schedules

Phillies

Philadelphia will play 25 of its final 45 games at home, where it has a .679 mark. On the road, the team is playing .443 ball.

The Phils can sort this out themselves by playing well against the Nationals and Braves down the stretch. They have nine games left against Washington, six of which are at home, and seven against the Braves, three of which are at the bank.

They start a crucial two-game test against the Boston Red Sox, baseball’s  best team, tonight. They also face the Chicago Cubs, the best team in the Senior Circuit, from Aug. 31-Sept. 2.

They also face a tough Rockies team for three of the season’s final ten games.

They face sub.500 teams 20 times. They play the Mets 11 times, face the Marlins six times, and have one three-game set against the Blue Jays.

By no means do the Phillies have an easy schedule the rest of the way. They do, however, have to look at the schedule with some positivity.

Braves

The Braves play 28 of their final 47 games at home. That’s a nice boost for the Braves, but they play .556 at home and .557 on the road. The interesting thing is who the Braves play over that stretch.

They have just 14 games remaining against teams that are below .500.  And three of those are against a San Francisco squad that is 59 and 60. They face the Central Division-leading Cubs for one makeup game. They face the West-leading Diamondbacks for four. They play the Red Sox three times. The rest of their schedule: Phillies (7), Pirates (6), Colorado (4), Washington (3), Cardinals (3) and Tampa Bay (2).

That’s rough.

Nationals

The Nationals have just 44 games to make up 5 games in the standings against two teams. It’s not impossible – just ask the 2007, 2008 Phillies, 1993 Braves. But it’s not easy.

How will Washington’s schedule contribute? Well, they will play 23 of their final games at home. That’s good for Washington. The problem, like the Braves, is who they will play down the stretch.

Washington will play just 15 games against fifteen games against sub-500 teams. All of those games come against the Marlins and Mets. They face the Braves (three times) and the Phillies (9) a lot the rest of the way, so they can make up some room on their own.

The rest of the Nationals schedule features the Cardinals (7), Cubs (4), Brewers (3) and Rockies (3).

Young pitching

Two of these teams are led by young rotations.

Look at how close some of these guys are to reaching their previous highs in single-season innings pitched:

Phillies

Aaron Nola: 14 innings
Vincent Velasquez: 13.3
Nick Pivetta: 13.3
Zach Eflin: Already career high

Braves

Sean Newcomb: Already career high
Mike Foltynewicz: 30 innings

Nationals

All veterans

Analysis

None of the three teams atop the National League East has an easy route to the postseason. In fact, if any of them has even a moderately long hot streak – say an 8-1 or 10-3 stretch, it can put the division away in the coming days. The schedule seems to favor the Phillies, slightly.

The Phillies have also had the better pitching staff up to this point in the season. However, Washington might get the edge going forward because they’ve been here before and we can be somewhat certain they won’t hit a wall.

 

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