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The Phillies path to the Playoffs

Believe it or not, even after losing three contests in a row last week, the Phillies (74-68) find themselves just two games out of the second wild-card spot in the National League.

The Phillies controlled their own destiny for a majority of this season, whether leading the National League East early on or controlling one of the two available wild cards. However, not only do the Chicago Cubs (76-66) need to keep sliding (thanks to injuries and poor pitching), but the Arizona Diamondbacks (.5 games ahead) and Milwaukee Brewers (tied) are both racing the Phillies in the push for the final playoff spot in the NL. It is no longer a marathon with just 20 games remaining.

The Phillies will spend the next week at home, but two power house teams visit Citizens Bank Park in the division-leading Atlanta Braves (89-55) and reigning World Series-champion Boston Red Sox (76-66). The Phillies then go on an 11-game road trip in Atlanta, Cleveland to face the Indians (83-61) and a rare five-game series against the likely playoff-bound Washington Nationals (79-63) before closing out at home with a three-game set with their biggest kryptonite in 2019, the Miami Marlins (51-91). That is an absolutely brutal schedule; every team they play, except the Marlins, has a winning record.

The Cubs have a significantly easier final 20 games. They hit the road for four games against the San Diego Padres (66-76) before a 10-game home stand against the Pittsburgh Pirates (62-81), Cincinnati Reds (67-77) and St. Louis Cardinals (81-62). Their final six games are on the road against the Pirates and Cardinals. The only team with a winning record left on their schedule are the Cardinals, who currently own a 4.5 game lead over the Cubs for the lead in the National League Central.

The red-hot Diamondbacks (75-68), winners in 11 of their last 13 games, may have the best shot at the playoffs, even after trading ace Zack Greinke to the Houston Astros. With only 19 games left, 12 are at home, including their final six, where they have a .522 winning percentage. They host the Reds, Marlins, Cardinals and Padres. The D-backs are even better on the road (39-34) and travel to New York for four against the Mets (72-70) and San Diego to face the Padres.

Finally, the Brewers (74-68), who have not lost back-to-back contests since Aug 25-27, have only three of their final 20 games against a team with a winning record. However, 13 of those games will be on the road, including their final six, where they are 31-37, good for a .456 winning percentage. They travel to Miami for four against the Marlins before a three-game series at the Cardinals. The Padres and Cardinals await them at Miller Park before ending the season at the Reds and Colorado Rockies (60-84).

All four teams have a shot to make a run at a wild-card spot, but the Phillies need to take care of business with easily the toughest schedule of the remaining contenders. It all starts Monday night as Aaron Nola (12-4 3.63 ERA) faces the Braves.

You can follow Greg Hall on Twitter (@WePodAndWeKnow) and e-mail him at [email protected].

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