PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The trash talk started well before kickoff, several Phillies sat on clubhouse sofas dissecting their fantasy football teams and giving grief to the players already off to slow starts. And after the Phillies waited out a 3 1/2-hour rain delay — a break interim manager Rob Thomson sheepishly admitted he spent watching the NFL — Rhys Hoskins crowed to the media he was beating Bryson Stott in their fantasy matchup.
"Literally the whole world knows now I'm beating you in fantasy football," Hoskins yelled down to Stott after his interview ended.
Who's hot, who's not, which QB stinks, it's all on the table for a lively debate.
But inside the clubhouse, one topic largely consciously avoided is Philadelphia's spot in the NL postseason standings. Is there talk about the playoffs? Much scoreboard watching of other teams in the hunt?
Hoskins, who hit two homers in Philadelphia's weekend sweep of the Washington Nationals, shook his head as the question was asked.
"We know it's there. You can feel it," Hoskins said. "We need to win games. We've got to win as many games as we can before we get there and that starts on Tuesday."
The Phillies' stretch run as they go for their first playoff appearance since 2011 — the 11-year drought the longest in the National League — chugs ahead this week with a six-game road trip that starts Tuesday with a three-game series in Miami and then three more in Atlanta. The Phillies should keep their travel bags handy, with only six more home games out the 22 contests left this season. They close the season on a whopping 10-game road trip with stops at Chicago, Washington and Houston.
Bailey Falter (4-3, 4.02 ERA) gets the start against the Marlins with the Phillies (78-62) holding the second wild-card spot and with a 3 1/2-game lead over Milwaukee for the final playoff berth entering Monday.
The postseason outlook is clear: According to playoff chances tracked by Fangraphs.com, the Phillies have a 92% chance of making the playoffs (though just 4% of winning the World Series). FanDuel Sportsbook had them with 40-1 odds Monday at winning the World Series.
Let's just start with the playoffs.
The odds are high in large part because, simply put, the Phillies played this summer as one of the best teams in baseball. They are 57-33 since June 1, behind only the Braves and Dodgers in winning percentage over that span in the National League.
The Phillies went 5-1 on their homestand against Miami and Washington — and play seven more games in September against two of the worst teams in the NL. The Phillies have won 21 of their last 25 games against the Marlins and Nationals. The Phillies have won eight straight against the Nationals, outscoring them 61-28 over that span. They swept two series against the Nationals this season and are 13-1 against them this season.
"We're know we're supposed to win, we know we're in right now, we know we've got to keep winning," outfielder Matt Vierling said, "and beating the teams we're supposed to beat."
The Phillies are trying to put the last road trip behind them, when a 1-5 mark at Arizona and San Francisco was one of the rare missteps since Thomson took over for Joe Girardi in June. The Phillies also dropped four straight on the road in July before the All-Star Game and were swept at Chicago by the Cubs in the first three games after the break. The Phillies would play a road playoff series in their current spot.
The Phillies are at close to full strength for the pennant push. Seranthony Dominguez tossed a scoreless inning in Sunday's 7-5 victory in his return from right triceps tendinitis (the Phillies blew five saves in the three weeks he was out), pitcher Zach Eflin (knee) returns this week and ace Zack Wheeler (tendinitis) and slugger Nick Castellanos (oblique strain) should each come back within two weeks.
With or without their stars, the Phillies feel confident the playoffs are in their future — even if mum's the word in the clubhouse.
"You've got to face it head on," Thomson said. "You've got to be a buffalo. The buffalo is the only animal on the planet that will head into a storm."
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