MLB: Phillies out to tighten playoff grip against Blue Jays


Not that long ago, the Philadelphia Phillies appeared to be a lock for a playoff berth for the first time since 2011.

Suddenly, there is genuine concern for the Phillies’ postseason chances heading into the start of a two-game home series against the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday.

Philadelphia (80-66) has dropped four consecutive games, while getting swept by the Atlanta Braves over the weekend, and currently sits in the National League’s third wild-card spot. Philadelphia remains two games ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers heading into play Monday.

“It’s disappointing for sure,” interim manager Rob Thomson said after a 5-2 loss to the Braves on Sunday. “But we’ve got to just keep going. I thought, for the most part, we pitched fairly well, played good defense — we just didn’t score many runs.”

Rhys Hoskins returned to the lineup Sunday after dealing with a sore right hand. Hoskins and reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper each went 0-for-4, though Alec Bohm and J.T. Realmuto each hit home runs.

Offensive struggles have been the theme during the four-game losing streak. The Phillies went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position Sunday and left seven men on base.

“You know how offenses are. It comes and goes,” Thomson said. “We’ll get it going.”

The Phillies will hand the ball to right-hander Kyle Gibson (10-6, 4.45 ERA). Gibson was solid in his most recent start Wednesday against the Miami Marlins, allowing six hits and one run over six innings with seven strikeouts and no walks.

In Gibson’s career against the Blue Jays, he’s 5-1 with a 4.14 ERA in 10 starts.

The Blue Jays (83-64) will enter the series with positive momentum despite a frustrating 5-4 loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday.

Toronto right-hander Jordan Romano blew the save opportunity as the Orioles scored three times in the ninth inning. Instead of completing a sweep, the Blue Jays took two of three games.

“He’s been so good the whole year,” interim Blue Jays manager John Schneider said of Romano. “I thought his slider was a little bit flat. I thought they were sitting on it. You have to give them credit for getting a couple hits and working some walks. There was a really close play 3-2 and I was surprised they ran, given how many people Jordan strikes out, but it worked out for them. You’ve got to tip your cap to some good hitting.”

The Blue Jays have played well in September, going 13-5. And unlike the Phillies, their playoff spot in the American League is a bit more secure as they sit atop the American League’s wild-card standings.

“This entire series was awesome. I thought we played great,” Schneider said after his team nearly rallied in the bottom of the ninth Sunday. “It speaks volumes to what we did in the ninth against a really good reliever (Felix Bautista). It just shows the mentality of this team. The defense was good again. The at-bats were good up and down.”

Toronto’s Vladimir Guerrero Jr. did smash his 29th homer of the season.

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (left hamstring) is eligible to return from the injured list for the Blue Jays, but the team has yet to make an announcement.

Ross Stripling (8-4, 2.94 ERA) is scheduled to start for Toronto. In Stripling’s most recent start Wednesday, he gave up three hits and one run in 6 1/3 innings against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Stripling is 2-0 with a 4.08 ERA in nine career appearances (six starts) against the Phillies.

–Field Level Media

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