(Photo credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)
The Philadelphia Phillies can punch their ticket to the postseason for the second straight year Tuesday when they open a three-game series versus the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Phillies (87-69) whittled their magic number to one, completing a four-game sweep of the New York Mets on Sunday.Philadelphia will reach the playoffs with a victory over its Keystone State rival or a loss by either the Miami Marlins (81-75) or Chicago Cubs (82-74).
"You start in spring training, it's all about the postseason, talk about the chance to get to the World Series," Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto said following Sunday's 5-2 victory. "This is step 1, get to a postseason spot. We're excited to celebrate, obviously the work's not done yet, but we look forward to that and then the real work starts."
Realmuto had a two-run single in the fourth inning on Sunday. He is 8-for-23 with two homers, seven RBIs and four runs during his six-game hitting streak.
"I feel like I've been putting together better at-bats recently," Realmuto said, per the Philadelphia Inquirer. "I haven't necessarily got the results I wanted a few weeks ago, but I felt like I was having better at-bats and putting good swings on balls, I just wasn't having good luck. Lately the ball is kind of falling in my direction."
Nick Castellanos belted a two-run homer against the Mets on Sunday, marking the seventh time he's gone deep in his last 12 games. During that stretch, Castellanos is 16-for-43 with 17 RBIs and 10 runs.
Philadelphia left-hander Aaron Nola (12-9, 4.57 ERA) will take the mound Tuesday in search of his first win in September. He is 0-1 with a 6.86 ERA in four starts this month.
Nola, 30, didn't fare well in his last encounter with the Pirates. He allowed seven runs (five earned) on nine hits in 4 2/3 innings of a 7-6 setback on July 29. He is 4-3 with a 4.34 ERA in eight career appearances against Pittsburgh.
Unlike the Phillies, the Pirates (74-82) were thwarted in their bid to extend their winning streak to five games on Sunday. The Pirates clinched their fifth straight losing season, squandering a two-run lead in a 4-2 setback to the Cincinnati Reds.
Jack Suwinski homered to lead off the fifth inning, marking the eighth straight game that Pittsburgh has gone deep.
Jason Delay had an RBI single later in the inning for Pittsburgh, which has won 16 of its past 25 games.
"We feel like we're in a very good spot going into next season to make that playoff push," Delay said, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "We feel like all of the pieces are in the locker room. And the experience guys are getting, it's only going to help us next year."
Bryan Reynolds has reached base in each of his past 23 games.
The Pirates have yet to announce their starting pitcher for the series opener.
Right-hander Mitch Keller (13-9, 4.25) is the likely candidate, however. He recorded his second straight win on Wednesday despite yielding seven runs on nine hits -- including two homers -- in a 13-7 victory over the Cubs.
Keller, 27, allowed two runs on six hits and struck out eight in a 2-1 setback to Philadelphia on July 28. He is 0-3 with a 6.53 ERA in four career appearances against the Phillies.
--Field Level Media