WASHINGTON — The Phillies needed to win two games Friday. But when the last legs of Hurricane Ian made that impossible, they did the next best thing.
They won one.
They’ll look for two on Saturday.
If Ian cooperates.
Desperate for wins to maintain their lead over the Milwaukee Brewers for the final National League wild-card playoff berth, the Phillies beat the Washington Nationals, 5-1, in the first game of a vital four-game series on Friday afternoon. The two teams were supposed to play a second game on Friday night, but that game was postponed because of rain about 30 minutes before the scheduled first pitch.
Saturday’s forecast is not promising but the teams will try to play two again. A separate-admission doubleheader is scheduled for 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Kyle Gibson will start Game 1 for the Phillies and Noah Syndergaard will get the ball for Game 2.
If rain gets in the way again on Saturday, the teams will try to play a doubleheader on Sunday. A single game with a 1:35 p.m. start time is already scheduled for that day.
If weather prevents the Phillies and Nationals from completing the four-game series, the Phillies would return to Washington to play a game on Thursday, the day before the playoffs are set to begin, if that game impacts the playoff race.
The Phillies are scheduled to close out the regular season with games in Houston on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
After the disaster that was Chicago, the Phillies were quite happy to get one win Friday afternoon. The victory nudged their lead over Milwaukee to a full game, but stay tuned, the Brewers were set to play the Miami Marlins on Friday night so there will be more movement in the standings.
Before arriving in Washington, the Phillies were swept by the Cubs in Chicago, extending their losing skid to five at a most inopportune time. The Phillies’ offense was brutal, scoring just three runs and going homerless in the three games at Wrigley Field. That’s why Rhys Hoskins’ first-inning homer against Washington right-hander Erick Fedde was so huge Friday.
“It brings a little more energy and noise in the dugout,” Hoskins said of the timing, “but I think, really, just a first-inning run is going to go a long way for us there. I think everybody got to take a deep breath, knowing that we can still score runs.
“Again, Chicago was not good, plain and simple, but we know we’re still in it. We still have a chance as long as we continue to focus on what’s in front of us.”
The Phillies, who have not been to the postseason since 2011, do control their own destiny. With six games remaining, their magic number over the Brewers is five. That includes a tiebreaker earned by winning the season series against the Brewers.
The Brewers had a chance to pull even with the Phillies on Thursday night but blew a late 2-0 lead when Miami’s Avisail Garcia clubbed a grand slam in the top of the eighth inning to give his club a 4-2 win.
Once upon a time, the Marlins were Phillies killers, dashers of Phillies’ postseason hopes. This time, they were Phillies helpers. A Brewers win would have pushed them a half-game ahead of the Phillies entering Friday’s schedule.
The Phillies were riding from the airport to the team hotel in Washington when Garcia belted the grand slam that kept the Phillies ahead of the Brewers.
“We had just landed,” Hoskins said. “We were on the bus, all huddled around a phone. It was pretty cool to watch.”
“I’m a big Avisail Garcia fan.”
In addition to the first-inning homer, Hoskins had an RBI single in Friday’s win. Bailey Falter, roughed up by Atlanta in his previous start, pitched six shutout innings.
“After my piss-poor performance in my last outing, it felt good to go out there and give the team a chance to win,” Falter said. “The boys earned it. I was just happy I delivered for them.”
Falter has spent the season filling in for injured starters and those who might need a rest. He’s done it quite well. The team is 7-2 in his last nine starts.
Maybe Avisail Garcia’s grand slam Thursday night and the Phillies’ win over Washington on Friday afternoon will be the booster shot that straightens this team out and pushes it to the postseason. Certainly, the Phillies need to make some hay against Washington, the majors’ worst team — the Phils are 14-2 against the Nats — because Houston looms next week and the 102-win Astros, who will have a first-round playoff bye, intend to play their big guns right till the end of the regular season. Justin Verlander, who leads the majors in ERA, will pitch one of the games next week against the Phillies.
Six games to go. The race is tight. But the Phillies remain in the driver’s seat — even after they were deep-dished in Chicago.
“Chicago stunk,” Hoskins said. “It wore on us. Look, we’re competitors, we care, we care probably too much at times. But in this game, you can’t dwell on things for too long. We had to flush it. We’re (ahead of Milwaukee). If we continue to win games, we’re going to be where we want to be.”
Read More:Phillies still in driver's seat thanks to a Marlin's grand slam and a big win Friday