Phillies pushing hard for 1st playoff berth since 2011

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Bob Boone waved to the Phillies crowd that accentuated the “Booooo” in his name in honor of the Gold Glove-winning catcher that caught the last out of the 1980 World Series.

He was an All-Star, a defensive whiz in Philly, a revered member of that championship season who, along with late Tug McGraw — his arms stretched high to the sky, bounding on the turf — was swallowed up into a mass of burgundy pinstripes in an image that resonates here to this day.

This year’s Phillies are on a 10-1 winning streak, have an NL wild-card berth in sight and have the city again in a frenzy. And Boone, on Sunday, fumbled the endorsement of the Phillies as a contender as much as he did a Frank White pop foul in Game 6 of the 1980 playoffs.

“I’m a Yankees fan now, sorry. My son’s there,” Boone said of Aaron Boone, who has the Yankees at an American League-best 70-39. He added of the Phillies: “They ain’t beating the Yankees, I’ll tell you that.”

Aaron Nola and Rhys Hoskins; Kyle Schwarber and Alec Bohm; Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard — they all may disagree. Their team is looking to crack the postseason for the first time since 2011 and break the longest playoff drought in the National League.

If they can, they’ll have a shot at the franchise’s third World Series championship in their 139-year history, though this year’s Phillies aren’t quite the no-doubt-about-it contenders as the 1980 and 2008 teams that had MVPs and All-Stars like Pete Rose, Chase Utley, Steve Carlton, Cole Hamels, Mike Schmidt and Ryan Howard.

But with Hoskins, Schwarber and a stout front end of the rotation leading the way, anything less than a playoff berth would be considered a bust.

The Phillies open a three-game home series Tuesday against the Marlins. The Phils are 60-48 — 12 games over .500 for the first time since Aug. 20, 2018 — and are coming off of their third four-game sweep of the season.

They moved ahead of San Diego for the second NL wild-card spot and interim manager Rob Thomson is a whopping 38-19 since he took over for Joe Girardi, who was fired June 3.

The Phillies are doing all of this without league MVP Bryce Harper, who is still out indefinitely with a broken left thumb that happened when he was hit by a pitch at the end of June. The Phillies are 21-13 since then.

Harper, hitting .318 with 15 home runs, 48 RBIs and .985 OPS, had pins removed last week and hit Sunday off a tee. So when he comes back, it will be like the Phillies made a Juan Soto-esque trade deadline deal without giving up any prospects.

With apologies to the 76ers, here they come. Is this Philly’s team of the year?

“Usually, winning teams have to face some sort of adversity throughout the year,” Hoskins said. “We have. Not to say we won’t these last couple of weeks of the season, last six weeks of the season, but we know that we can.”

Hoskins has seen his share of sizzling summer stretches melt into fall swoons during his first five seasons with the Phillies. But right now, they’re peaking in early August, doing what’s needed (winning 19 of the last 26 games against the NL East) and hoping trade-deadline acquisitions Syndergaard, veteran reliever David Robertson and center fielder Brandon Marsh will push the Phillies into the playoffs.

It’s not all outsiders contributing to the success: Hoskins, Nick Maton, Bohm and Bryson Stott comprise a completely homegrown infield, and Maton had four RBIs and Stott three in Philadelphia’s 13-1 win Sunday over the Nationals.

As a coach with the Yankees, Thomson saw Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford and other franchise legends come through the clubhouse with a World Series ring or two … or 10. Catching up with Rose, Carlton and other 1980 winners over the weekend stirred championship feelings.

“Any time you can hang around a world champion and start talking about that stuff, I think it helps,” Thomson said.

The Phillies play 35 of their final 54 games against teams with losing records, and Thomson can’t wait see to see how far the Phillies can go.

“I know the last few years we haven’t played well in September. But each team was a little different,” Thomson said. “It wasn’t the same exact group. This is a different group and there’s a lot of leadership in the clubhouse and a lot of winners on the field and they’re playing well. We’ve got an outstanding bullpen that’s pitching very well.

“I have a lot of confidence that this team can get right through at the end.”

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