Despite painful loss Monday, 3 key Phillies took positive steps


At least the Phillies came out of Monday night's D.C. disaster trending in the right direction health-wise.

Zack Wheeler was not sharp and took the loss, but some decent run support and better defense might have made it a different story because he managed to keep his club in the game.

Wheeler said the torn fingernail that forced him to miss a start 10 days ago was a non-factor.

"The nail is good to go, no problems, good shape," he said.

That's good because he lines up to start the penultimate game of the season at Tampa Bay on Saturday. It could be a huge start if the Phillies remain in the NL postseason race. The next day's start could be even bigger with Aaron Nola pitching to get the Phils into the playoffs on the final day of the season. The Phils enter Tuesday clinging to the eighth and final playoff berth by a half-game.

Nola will start the first game of Tuesday's doubleheader in Washington. Baseball's worst bullpen will cover the second game. If the Phils can somehow get on a little roll and lock up a playoff berth before the season finale Sunday, they would be able to hold Nola back until September 30, Game 1 of the first round of the playoffs. That would be a huge boost to the team. Zach Eflin could pitch the second game and Wheeler the third, provided he's needed Saturday.

That's not a bad top three in a playoff series, but first the Phillies have to get there.


In addition to Wheeler, two other bits of positive health news came out of Washington on Monday night.

Manager Joe Girardi said catcher J.T. Realmuto, who has missed 11 straight games with a hip/quad injury, was approaching 90 percent readiness and could catch one of the doubleheader games on Tuesday. More will be known on that closer to the 3:05 p.m. start time for Game 1.

Bryce Harper, who left Sunday's game with back stiffness, was able to serve as the designated hitter Monday night. He went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts and said he was a little sore after the game.

"But I'll be out there tomorrow," he said. "We have to win these games and get into that first round of the playoffs."

Harper said the plan was to play right field in one of the doubleheader games Tuesday and serve as the DH in the other game. After that, he said, he should be ready to play the remainder of the games in the field.

Harper is 0 for 8 with four strikeouts in the last two games, both losses.

"I'm swinging at pitches out of the zone and missing pitches in the zone," he said. "I've got to be better."