The term “must-win” is one of the most overused terms in sports.
You’ll hear it today while watching NFL pregame shows… in Week 2 of a 16-game season. You’ll hear it during rough stretches for baseball teams in June and July… when there are still a few months of games to be played.
And surely you’ll hear it in baseball this month, too, when the season is winding down and magic numbers and mathematical elimination become realities.
The Phils entered Sunday at Minute Maid Park fresh of one of the more deflating losses of the season, a 5-0 defeat to the 99-loss Houston Astros. If they don’t win today, the Phils risk losing three of four to baseball’s worst team with a little more than two weeks remaining in their season.
A win and the best the Phillies could hope for is to be three games back of a wild card spot with 15 games to play. Of course, they could just as easily lose and be four out with 15 to play.
And it won’t exactly get any easier on Monday, when the Phils begin a three-game series at Citi Field against a New York Mets team that has taken 10 of 15 games from them this season.
So, sure, today is a must-win game.
Why the Phillies will win: Roy Halladay is pitching.
Halladay has had mixed results since returning from the DL two months ago (6-2 with a 4.04 ERA in 11 starts) but he hasn’t been all bad, either. Two starts ago he pitched into the eighth inning of a 6-2 win in Cincinnati.
Halladay has also been unbeatable at Minute Maid Park.
Although he’s only made two starts here, Halladay has pitched nine innings in both and didn’t give up an earned run in either. Last year (on Sept. 14) he threw he threw his first shutout of the season to help the Phils clinch a playoff spot.
Why the Phillies will lose: Their offense has been offensive.
Despite having everyone healthy (well, everyone but Placido Polanco) the Phils have scored three runs or less in six of 14 games this month. The Phils are 4-2 in those games because they’ve had sturdy starting pitching; but eventually, the bats have to win games for you, too
In their two losses in Houston in the last three games the Phillies have gone 2-for-19 with runners in scoring position and have stranded 23 runners.
Halladay is 49-5 (.907 winning percentage) in his 63 starts with the Phillies when he’s given a lead. So some early runs off Jordan Lyles could be the difference.
If the Phillies lose, they’ll sink back below the .500 mark for the first time in seven days. If you don’t have a winning record with two weeks left in the season, you probably don’t deserve to be in any playoff discussion.
Must-win? Sure sounds like it.