It was a crazy day in the fight for the third National League wild-card spot. The Philadelphia Phillies were in free fall, then the rest of the day played out and they are now actually in decent shape for the third and final NL wild-card spot.
Saturday afternoon, the Phillies were blown out by the 102-loss Washington Nationals in Game 1 of their doubleheader (WAS 13, PHI 4), dropping them into a tie with the Milwaukee Brewers for the third NL wild-card spot. They were both 84-73. The loss was Philadelphia's 11th in its past 15 games.
It looked like the night half of the doubleheader might be rained out, too. Meanwhile, the Brewers were set to play the 92-loss Marlins.
Then things started looking up for the Phillies, as Kyle Schwarber hit a leadoff homer to set the tone for the nightcap. Schwarber's second home run of the game -- and NL-leading 44th -- in the top of the fourth inning made it an 8-0 Phillies lead, and they would cruise from there (PHI 8, WAS 2).
Meantime, at Milwaukee, the Brewers took a 3-2 lead to the ninth inning. Just three outs without allowing a run and they'd keep pace with the Phillies. Closer Devin Williams was on and he issued a leadoff walk to Jon Berti. With one out, another walk before Bryan De La Cruz singled and two runs scored thanks in part to a Christian Yelich error. It was 4-3 Marlins and that would end up being the final score (MIA 4, MIL 3).
The Phillies, who have not been to the postseason since 2011, own baseball's longest drought now that the. They were in comfortable position for much of August and September, but their tailspin had them in great danger, particularly after Saturday afternoon's loss. What a difference a few hours made in putting them back in pretty good position.
It must be noted the Phillies won the season series 4-2 against the Brewers and hold the tiebreaker, as MLB did away with Game 163 tiebreakers this year and all ties will be broken mathematically. If the both teams finish with identical records for the third wild-card spot, Philadelphia will go to the postseason and Milwaukee will stay home.
That means, with a one-game lead over the Brewers and the tiebreaker, it's essentially a two-game lead with four to play for the Phillies.
They aren't out of the woods, though, given how poorly they've played lately.
Plus, the path forward is tough, too. The Phillies wrap up the regular season with three games on the road against the Houston Astros, who have clinched the American League's best record. and has now lost one game to the Nationals this weekend.
The Brewers have one more game against the Marlins before hosting the Diamondbacks for three games to close the season. They'll probably need to win out and get help, but, again, it's not an easy road for Philly.
Philadelphia fired manager Joe Girardi in June and played much better under interim Rob Thomson prior to this 4-11 stretch. If the club falls out of the postseason completely, larger changes could be made this offseason.