The Philadelphia Phillies own a comfortable lead atop the National League Wild Card race. With two weeks remaining in the regular season, the Chicago Cubs are starting to look like their likeliest opponent to begin the 2023 MLB Postseason.
The Atlanta Braves celebrated a National League East championship in Philadelphia on September 13. However, the Phillies have a chance to lock up the first Wild Card and home-field advantage for a three-game series at Citizens Bank Park from October 3-5.
A Potential Phillies-Cubs matchup
Ricky Bottalico spoke on the Phillies Talk podcast about Chicago.
“The Cubs are scary because, in my mind, they remind me of that team in 2007, the Colorado Rockies. When they came in here and beat up on the Phillies in the playoffs that year, they were hot at the end of the season. They played really well in September, and they carried that over into the playoffs. The Cubs have been hot for about two months now.” -Ricky Bottalico
He pointed to Chicago’s strong pitching staff, timely home runs, and contributing veterans as reasons they pose a legitimate threat.
The Cubs sat at 45-51 on July 21, less than two weeks before the MLB Trade Deadline. They ignored outside noise about selling valuable veterans and reeled off an eight-game winning streak.
They exploded into playoff contention, although they still sit comfortably behind the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central. A 33-18 stretch from July 21-September 13 makes them look like a dangerous team heading into October.
The resurgence of former NL MVP Cody Bellinger has kept the offense afloat. Lefty Justin Steele is currently second in NL Cy Young odds. The Cubs will look to line up their ace to start Game 1 of a potential Wild Card series in Philadelphia.
Phillies Must Worry About Themselves
The Phillies have developed a strange tendency to tie games dramatically in the late innings, only to come away with a loss.
Questions about their bullpen have become very real. Seranthony Dominguez doesn’t look like the same pitcher who played a huge role in a trip to the World Series in 2022. Craig Kimbrel looked unhittable at times in the first half of the season, but he’s come back to Earth at a bad time.
The Phillies surrendered a realistic chance at winning the NL East during the first half of the season. They’ll depend on hitting their stride with the same magic that carried them to the World Series one year ago. That magic will most likely have to start in a Phillies-Cubs series.