As the calendar gets ready to flip from June to July, the Phillies find themselves in a very important stretch of games, six straight against the Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals, two of the teams they are chasing in the National League wild-card race.
It’s an opportunity for the postseason-starved Phillies to gain some ground before the All-Star break arrives, but so far, they are not taking advantage of it.
A nine-game homestand has begun with a pair of losses to the sizzling Braves, who are 21-5 in June and now trail the first-place New York Mets by just three games in the NL East. Wednesday night’s 4-1 defeat dropped the Phillies to 39-37. They are eight games back in the division and three back in the wild-card chase.
There’s plenty of season left, but the Phils need to take advantage of these head-to-head matchups. They close out the series with Atlanta on Thursday night. St. Louis comes to town for three games beginning Friday night. Then it’s three against Washington and four more against the Cardinals in St. Louis next week.
As Zack Wheeler said Tuesday night, “We need to win.”
It didn’t happen Wednesday night because, for the second night in a row, the Phils didn’t produce enough offense. They won their first game without Bryce Harper in San Diego on Sunday but have now lost two in a row without their broad-shouldered slugger. Harper had surgery on his broken left thumb Wednesday and is hoping for a late August return.
Phillies hitters were just 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position in losing Tuesday night’s game, 5-3. They followed that up with just four hits in Wednesday night’s loss, not enough to beat the Braves even on a night when Ranger Suarez pitched into the seventh and kept it close. Rhys Hoskins belted a solo homer in the third inning, but the Phils did nothing else against Atlanta starter…