Following the All-Star break, the Phillies embark on a nine-game road trip against two first-place teams and the Mets, but other clubs they're in the playoff race with have a difficult road ahead too.
But future ace Zack Wheeler is scheduled to go Saturday (vs. Cole Hamels, who always struggles in New York), and All-Star Game starter Matt Harvey is expected to pitch Sunday. If the Phils don't win the opener Friday, when Kyle Kendrick opposes Jeremy Hefner, winning the series is going to be one hell of a challenge.
And that's what the Phillies have been doing lately — winning series. They've won four in a row and, even without sweeping a single one of them, have gained three games in the divisional race and two and a half in the wild-card.
After the Mets, the Phils will be on the road in St. Louis and Detroit. Both clubs are in first place and have been playing well lately — the Cardinals have won five straight at home and the Tigers are in the midst of a 9-4 stretch (just like the Phillies).
So if the Phillies go 5-4 on this trip — a good showing, but not what they really need so close to the trade deadline — will that turn them into sellers?
See, the Braves, Reds, Nationals and Dodgers — the closest clubs to the Phillies in postseason hunt — face schedules to begin the second half that will be almost as challenging.
Here's what's slated for them:
Braves: 3 at
White Sox, 4 at Mets, 3 vs. Cardinals
Reds: 3 vs. Pirates, 4 at Giants, 4 at Dodgers
Nationals: 3 vs. Dodgers, 4 vs. Pirates, 4 at Mets
Dodgers: 3 at Nationals, 3 at Blue Jays, 4 vs. Reds
The Phillies' opponents' winning percentage is easily the highest (.540), followed by the Reds (.520), Nationals (.518), Dodgers (.514) and Braves (.489).
There are some oddities. The Reds will play a traditional doubleheader (not day-night) at San Francisco, except they'll be considered the home team in the first game. With a day-night DH against the Mets, the Nationals will play 11 games in 10 days (albeit all at home). The Dodgers will play or 10 straight days, and the Braves don't get a day off until Aug. 8.
The next three series for all of these teams could decide some of their fates, or it could still be a logjam come July 29, two days before the trade deadline. But if the Phillies basically break even at 5-4 or 4-5, they could still be right there and make it unlikely for Ruben Amaro Jr. to pull the plug on the season.