It has been tough listening to Phillies telecast this week as Tom McCarthy and Chris Wheeler went on and on about the Phillies being in the wild-card race. That’s a sign this team is playing for something when they go on and on. It’s self-serving, but whatever.
It’s great the Phillies are playing meaningful games in September. They made this month interesting by being three games out in the wild-card race by sweeping the Marlins yesterday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park. They completed their homestand by going 6-0 after a 3-1 victory over the Marlins yesterday at Citizens Bank Park, and they won seven in a row and 15 of their last 19 . That run is enough to put them in the playoff talk conversation.
With that said, don’t expect an apology for counting them out. The Phillies played like a team that didn’t have it. They couldn’t hit or pitch. It has been going on since June. It’s easy to wonder if they had it in them this year. If anything, be outraged about the team playing lousy baseball all year.
Before we start celebrating about the Phillies, keep in mind they are three games out. They have ways to go until they get a lead for the last wild-card spot. Until then, don’t start going after frontrunning fans for jumping on the bandwagon. It’s condescending to say the least.
No one can deny what the Phillies are doing now. There is so much to like about the team right now. Everything is clicking from starting pitching to bullpen to hitting. No one could have said that for the last few months.
Outside of Cole Hamels, there were questions about the starting rotation. Roy Halladay has been hit around all year before the injury and Cliff Lee has imploded further in the game. Vance Worley was never the same after the elbow injury. Kyle Kendrick was inconsistent before the stretch he had last month. It was hard to believe that it was going to happen.
Fortunately, everything clicked. Halladay has been much better for a month along with Lee. Tyler Cloyd has done a fine job so far. Kendrick has pitched like an ace. It’s no wonder why the Phillies are winning games. Great pitching will put a team in a position to win games.
The bullpen has been much better now that Charlie Manuel found guys who stepped up in the seventh and eighth inning. Antonio Bastardo has been on a good run for a month by giving up one run and five hits in his last 10 outings. Phillippe Aumont has been a revelation by giving up a run and three hits in the seven innings he has pitched.
The bullpen is the key in all this. The Phillies have had a hard time setting up Jonathan Papelbon. Most relievers could not get the job done, and that included Bastardo. They were blowing leads. Now that Bastardo and Aumont have settled down, this team has a chance to put the game away by the seventh inning.
We can talk about the hitting and the starting rotation all we want, but the Phillies would not be in a position to contend for a playoff spot if Aumont and Bastardo do not step up in the seventh inning. That’s where games are won when relievers come in preserved the lead every game. That’s how a playoff team is formed.
No one knew Aumont would come out of nowhere to get the job done, and no one had a clue Bastardo would figure out how to pitch after having control issues the first few months of the year. Don’t let anyone say otherwise.
The hitting has been good as expected when Chase Utley and Ryan Howard came back from the disabled list. It was tough to score runs without the two superstars in the lineup, and it wasn’t coincidence the Phillies were losing games in the first few months of the year.
Jimmy Rollins is playing like it is 2007 when he was the MVP. He continued his great play by hitting a game-winning two-run home run in the seventh inning that sealed the win for the Phillies.
He has been getting key hits and the key home runs lately as he has hit three home runs and drove in seven runs with 13 hits to show for it. Certainly being taken out of the game against the Mets by Charlie Manuel has lit a fuse in him, and it is paying off for the Phillies. It’s a shame that had to get him motivated to play, but whatever works at this time of the year.
Everything is going right for the Phillies. They are not only winning every game these days, but they gained four games in the wild-card standings this week as the Cardinals , Pirates and Dodgers are struggling at the wrong time. They deserved to be commended for making it interesting by playing the season out. It speaks a lot about the character of the players.
It’s okay to love what’s going on, but there are still 16 games to go. No one knows what’s going to happen. No one knew the Phillies would be in this position, and no one can predict they will finish up an impressive run that would help them qualify for postseason baseball. For all we know, the Phillies can slump after that. They still have to play the Braves and Nationals, and those two teams would like nothing better than eliminate their rival from making the playoffs.
There’s still work to do, so enjoy the games and let’s hold off the I-told-you-so until the Phillies actually make the playoffs.