NEW YORK — If you were told on opening day, or even at the All-Star break, that the Phillies would lose so many key players to injury and go half the season with their top players underperforming ... how would a two-game deficit with 20 to play sound?
That's where the Phillies somehow find themselves after a successful weekend at Citi Field. They won Sunday's 4-hour, 29-minute marathon — the second-longest nine-inning game in Phillies history and longest in Mets history — 10-7.
The Cubs lost three of four this weekend to the Brewers. The surging Diamondbacks lost on Sunday. The wild-card standings look like this with 20 games left:
The Cubs have a much more favorable remaining schedule, but they've also lost two big pieces over the last week: Javier Baez and Craig Kimbrel.
The odds are stacked against the Phillies but they do not face an insurmountable deficit. If they play well at home this week against the Braves and Red Sox, who knows.
This was a good win Sunday. The Phillies fell behind 3-0 and were facing Noah Syndergaard. They were forced to turn to the overworked bullpen in the fifth inning. Bryce Harper (hand) did not start again and J.T. Realmuto had the day off. Harper played just three innings in the series but should be ready to start Monday.
"I think it's certainly an indication that we still have a lot of fight left in us," manager Gabe Kapler said. "Coming into this series having lost a couple of games in Cincinnati, to see us come back and fight like we did today was definitely encouraging.
"We know we have a long way to go. We have a tough schedule and we're gonna have to be especially resilient to make it through this difficult stretch but I believe in that club. I believe in the fight of that club and I think the best indication is how much guys want to be up at the plate in the big spot, how much guys run to the bat rack to the be the guy."
Vince Velasquez took "full responsibility" for the length of the game, referring to his long and laborious first inning in which he retired the first two batters before going walk, homer, homer, single, walk, groundout. That was definitely a tone-setter.
Velasquez recovered after that first inning to give the Phillies a chance to come back, which they did. He encountered trouble in the fifth and that's when the bullpen parade began for both teams.
"This is a great way to develop some solid momentum going into the homestand," Velasquez said. "It would be awesome if we win that Atlanta series. We have Atlanta and Boston, perfect. It would create some serious momentum. We've got Noles (Aaron Nola) kicking it off and that gives us a good chance to continue what we've been doing."
Long, long afternoon. A prime example of why the September rules need to change and will change beginning next season. The Eagles game started 10 minutes earlier than the Phillies' game and ended about 90 minutes earlier.
"It was a long game but it didn't seem like anyone was exhausted," Kapler said. "Guys were still on the edge of their seats in the dugout. We're a little bit tapped and at the same time, we're pretty gritty. I'm proud of that."
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