2020 Phillies on the brink of death after losing game they led for 21st time

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The 2020 Phillies are on the brink of death.They took another lead by losing to the Tampa Bay Rays, 4-3, on Saturday night.

The loss meant the Phillies could be knocked out of the playoff race within hours, depending on the outcome of the San Francisco-San Diego game in the West.

A Giants victory would wipe out the Phillies.

A loss to the Giants would bring the Phillies to life before the last day of the season on Sunday. The Giants were leading 3-0 in the fifth inning of this game.

If your confidence level in the Phillies is low, that’s understandable. They have lost six of their last seven games to fall three games under .500. The best they can finish is two games under 0.500. They haven’t had a winning season since 2011, the last year they made the playoffs.

If they were to somehow make the playoffs this season, they would be the first team to do so with a losing record. An eight-team playoff field made that possible.

Questionable distinction

The Phillies lost for the 21st time after holding a lead at one point in the game. This is most in the majors.

They have led in 49 of their 59 games.

Wheeler’s night

Zack Wheeler pitched the eighth, gave up four runs and struck out eight. He threw 118 shots, the most by a Phillies starter since Cole Hamels’ no-hitter against the Cubs in July 2015.

Wheeler came out with the Phillies lagging behind by a run.

Andrew McCutchen’s solo homerun early in the fifth inning gave the Phillies a 2-1 lead.

Wheeler restored the lead at the bottom of the inning by allowing three runs with two outs.

Radius wide receiver Mike Zunino, hitting .125, tied the game with a single that scored Manuel Margot, who had doubled with an out.

Wheeler kept the inning alive by hitting the next batter with a pitch and he paid it off when Brandon Lowe stroked a single RBI the other way around on a shift at the Phillies. If shortstop Didi Gregorius wasn’t in a shift, Wheeler would have been out of the inning with the game tied. Instead, Lowe’s hit scored one run and the Rays added another on a Willy Adames hit to come up 4-2.

To get closer

The Phils had a singles run from McCutchen, Alec Bohm and Bryce Harper in seventh. They could have gotten more up the set, but JT Realmuto pulled off a double play and Jean Segura struck out with a man in the third.

Hard to believe

The Phillies have lost each of Wheeler’s last three starts.

It was the first time in 11 starts for the Phils this season that he had given up more than three points.

Difficult break

McCutchen, who had a big night, started the third set with what looked like a triple. After an examination, he was told to retire second because the ball had lodged under the padding in the outfield.

Had the treble held, McCutchen would have scored on Realmuto’s two-out single down center. Instead, he was tossed home by Kevin Kiermaier, the Gold Glove center fielder from Tampa Bay. It turned out to be a huge race.

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Aaron Nola (5-4, 3.06) is expected to make what could be the most important start of his career in the regular season finale on Sunday afternoon. The first pitch is 3:05 p.m. The Rays have not announced a starter.

The Phillies have lost Nola’s last two starts. The right-hander allowed eight earned runs in 11 innings on those two outings.

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