The Phillies looked like a lame duck at the start of the season. Now they are squarely in the playoff race and might be even hunting down a division title.
The Phillies’ shortened season has already managed incredible highs and low, and we’re only just into the 2nd half of it. It started with losing 2 of 3 to the Marlins and then having the start of the season paused thanks to the half the Marlins team testing positive for COVID. They had 7 games postponed and needed to be made up during the course of the already shortened season. They had 26 games scrunched into August and started off taking 2 of 3 from the Yankees and then splitting a 4 game set with the Braves.
That’s when the Phillies had what can only be described as a disaster. They blew a big lead to the Orioles and lost in extra innings, then lost a 1 run game the next day, and offered no resistance to the sweep, losing 11-4 in the final contest. Baltimore isn’t quite as bad as most experts assumed they’d be, but these were losses that seemed to suck any immediate hope out of the season. The bullpen was getting smacked around. The errors in the field were akin to Little League baseball mishaps, and not the ones that happen in the LLWS, but ones that happen in your local league. A sweep of the Mets thankfully stopped the bleeding.
Then a win against the Red Sox had the Phillies on a 4 game winning streak, which they promptly turned into a 5 game losing streak. This got Bryce Harper amped up. Already an emotional and vocal leader he stated that the Phillies had to win the next 9 out of 10 to have any hope for the playoffs. In addition to his math skills, he’s also been showing off his penmanship with his “Sign JT” celebration, a clear message to management to lock up the best catcher in baseball. After Harper’s statements, the Phillies reeled off wins in 10 of the next 11. The offense came alive and Matt Klentak made a few bullpen moves getting Heath Hembree, David Phelps, and Brandon Workman to help sure up the group. It is still the Phillies key weakness but it is markedly better as the Phillies have entered the back half of the season.
Both Zach Wheeler and Aaron Nola have been the best pitchers for the Phillies, with Wheeler being 4-0 with a 2.47 ERA over 51 innings in his 8 starts. The Phillies will need a third starter to emerge for the playoff push, with the likely candidate seeming to once again be Zach Eflin. Pitching is not the story of this team though. The offense is. Helping fuel the most recent hot streak is Rhys Hoskins, who has hit 9 home runs and 25 runs batted in on 28 hits slashing .280/.400/.620 for an OPS of 1.020 in the last 30 days. Alec Bohm has become a lineup regular and has been fantastic in his first 24 games. As he’s stabilized third base, Jean Segura has moved to 2nd base and been on a hot streak since Scott Kingrey has been absent from the lineup. Combined with the offense coming from Didi Gregorius the Phillies are dangerous throughout the lineup. Bryce Harper has gone cold in the last few games, but through midseason, he was in some MVP talk and JT Realmuto leads the team in home runs and continues to be near perfect defensively.
The Phillies are currently 1 1/2 games back of the Atlanta Braves for the division lead and will make the playoffs as long as the are one of the top 2 teams in the NL East. The Marlins are only a game back of the Phillies and the two teams are starting a 7 game series. They will play 3 full games and 2 sets of 7 inning double headers. Whoever wins this series will likely be the 2nd team from the NL East. It’s the most important series of the year for the Phillies and this bizarre season could take a turn into October if they are able to come out on the winning side.
With the Flyers and Sixers making playoff runs and the Eagles season already here, it was easy to ignore the Phillies. It is time to stop that. This team has the offense to win any game and in the playoffs anything is possible. With Aaron Nola and Zach Wheeler at the front of the rotation, a short series or play in-game becomes a very winnable affair, and a long series might set up in the Phillies favor. It’s time to start paying attention. We are.