The Phillies departed for the West Coast Sunday evening after being held to just four singles in a shutout loss that ended their season-long 11-game homestand.
Despite the quiet conclusion, it was a successful 7-4 run that included a four-game sweep of the Reds and a near-sweep of the Pirates.
Had the Phils finished the job Sunday against Pittsburgh, they'd have finished a season series 7-0 or better against any team for the first time in franchise history. Alas.
The next two clubs on the Phillies' schedule are also under .500 but will be tougher tests than the current 4-A squads of the Pirates and Reds. The Phils open a three-game series Monday night in Arizona against the 59-67 Diamondbacks, who have one of the hottest hitters and hottest pitchers in baseball in Christian Walker and Zac Gallen.
The D-backs just went to Chicago and swept a White Sox team battling to win its division. They're 12-8 over their last 20 games.
Walker, the cleanup hitter and first baseman from Norristown, has belted a career-high 30 home runs. He's hit .319 in August with six doubles, seven homers, 20 RBI and a .984 OPS in 25 games.
Gallen, who pitches the middle game of the series Tuesday, hasn't allowed a run in four starts. He's pitched 27⅓ straight scoreless innings and is 9-2 with a 2.66 ERA.
The Diamondbacks have several dangerous hitters in Walker, Daulton Varsho, Ketel Marte and Josh Rojas. Rookie center fielder Alek Thomas went 5 for 11 with two walks when the teams met earlier this season.
The Phillies went out to Arizona late last August as well. They were swept in a three-game series and went on to lose seven of nine games at a critical point in their season. This team is in much better playoff position. At 72-56, the Phils are in the second wild-card spot, 2½ games ahead of the continually disappointing Padres and four ahead of the Brewers, the first team out.
ESPN gives the Phillies an 89% chance to make the playoffs. Baseball-Reference has them at 98.6%. They're on a 91-win pace.
The Phils have Ranger Suarez starting in Game 1, Aaron Nola in Game 2 and Bailey Falter in the series finale Wednesday at Chase Field. They'll go up against Madison Bumgarner, Gallen and rookie left-hander Tommy Henry.
Bumgarner has been getting ripped lately. He's 0-4 with a 7.53 ERA in his last five starts as his opponents have hit .339 with 18 extra-base hits. He allowed three runs (one earned) to the Phils over five innings in June and was taken deep by Bryson Stott.
The Phillies have an off-day Thursday before their final series of the year against the NL West in San Francisco. Friday is the Phils' last game on Apple TV+ and their last regular-season game that begins after 8:10 p.m. The Giants have been mired in mediocrity for months and at 61-65 are the only team in the National League poised to finish right around .500.