MLB Wild Card: JT Realmuto, Kyle Gibson lead Phillies to sixth straight win

The Phillies continue to pounce on basement dwellers and choke them out early, leaving the National League’s weakest teams little chance of a comeback.

It bodes well with another 13 straight games against clubs under .500.

Just like Friday night and all week, the Phillies rode the early offense to a relatively comfortable win. They scored three runs in the first inning on JT Realmuto’s clearing-bases double and rode from there to a 6-0 win, their sixth straight.

The Phils have beaten their opponents 22-1 in the first three innings of those six games.

“You know, honestly, last year that was our downfall,” pitcher Kyle Gibson said of the Phillies’ ability to beat teams that were stuck in the standings.

“This year our approach is a bit sharper and with a bit more head start than in the past. It’s easy to get careless or complacent when playing these teams. Especially lately we’ve done a great job of beating these teams, taking an early lead and really setting the tone of the game.

“I’ve been on those teams where you lose 100 games and every time you give up runs early it’s like, ‘Here we go again.’ I would assume that some of the teams we played against had that feeling. That’s what you want as a team going to the playoffs. They want them to get in that mood and it’s going to be hard for them to come back. That was the biggest difference.”

Realmuto has been one of baseball’s best sluggers for the past five weeks. He has raced in 26 heats in his last 27 games and finished fourth in the majors behind only Paul Goldschmidt, Aaron Judge and Pete Alonso in that span.

Realmuto has an extra base hit and/or an RBI in eight straight games and opportunities should remain if Bryce Harper hits back in front of him. Harper, in his second game since returning from a broken left thumb, singled in the first inning just like Friday. It loaded the basics for Realmuto. Harper was later intentionally walked twice.

“Since I’ve been here, we’ve almost downplayed our competition at times,” said Realmuto. “For me, that’s a big difference in our season. The teams we should deal with, we played well all season.”

The Phillies have carved out a nice cushion for themselves in the wildcard race. They are second of three wildcard spots with a 2½ game lead over the Padres and a five game lead over the Brewers.

There are a lot of really bad teams in baseball this season, and since being swept out of the All-Star break by the Cubs, the Phillies are 18-2 against clubs with losing records.

Since June 1, the Phillies have had five different winning streaks of at least five games. At 72-55, they’re as far over .500 as they’ve been since the last day of the 2011 season, and it’s been so long since they’ve had that many hitters hot at once.

The Phillies are 23-9 in their last 32 games. Nick Castellanos, Alec Bohm and Realmuto have each hit between .323 and .333 during this stretch. Bryson Stott hit .295 with pop. Jean Segura wasn’t back all the time, but he’s hit .344 with a .427 percent on base in his last 19 games. And he’s the 8-hole club now.

Remember when Kyle Schwarber carried the Phillies offense from June 1 through mid-July? Schwarber has been on a home run for the past three weeks and the Phils have played 14-7. They face under-pitching and shoddy defense, but they find ways to score even when their home run hitters don’t go deep.

Gibson won in his 25th start, improving to 9-5 with a 4.08 ERA. He hit nine in seven scoreless innings in one of his best starts of the year.

The Phils are looking to sweep Sunday afternoon’s seven-game season series against the Pirates behind Noah Syndergaard, whose four starts as the Phillie have all resulted in wins.

“September 1 is maybe a little early to think about, but when you’re sitting on a playoff seat, it’s easier to think about,” Gibson said. “You try to fight those thoughts until you can hold on and until you can get to that moment, but absolutely, it’s something you think about.”

35 games left.

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