We’re 12 games into the season, and the Phillies are 6-6. In their first homestand of the year, they were swept by the Brewers — who are out to a 10-2 start, the best in baseball — but rebounded to sweep in the Marlins in turn. The Phillies have been outscored by 6 runs, and the team’s no longer a hot ticket: On April 11th, the Phillies drew just 22,483 fans, the lowest since July 31, 2006.
But there are reasons to be optimistic about the 2014 season. While the pitching’s shaky, the offense is humming along: Second in the NL in hitting, first in on-base-percentage, sixth in slugging. And a big reason for that is the work of Chase Utley.
Utley's played 10 games this year — he missed two with what the team said was the flu — and he's simply drilling the cover off the ball. He's 20-for-40, a cool .500. He has three homers and 10 RBI. Utley's hit in all 10 games and has a 15-game hitting streak dating back to 2013. "He continues to be a baller," Tony Gwynn Jr. said Sunday.
If you look at sabermetric stats, he does even better: First the league in weighted on-base average, first in all of baseball in WAR. And the flu doesn't just go away quickly: Chase Utley is hitting .500 while sick!
Sunday in the eighth inning, he cracked a 1-0 pitch to right field — as seen in the annotated screenshot above — to give the Phillies a 4-3 win over the Marlins.
Yeah, that's right.
Elias: Utley is 20 for 40. First Phillies player to have a 20-for-40 stretch in a season since Von Hayes in 1989.
— Todd Zolecki (@ToddZolecki) April 13, 2014
Utley is not going to hit .500 for the season — the record is an absurd .440 in 1894, when baseball was a much different game and also women could not yet vote — but it's a nice sign for a player who has dealt with injuries the last few years. Utley is 35, and he's averaged just 108 games the previous four seasons. Pray his knees hold up this year, Phillies fans.
So what's going on with the other two big names of the early 2000s Phillies?
Ryan Howard, never a good fielder, is suddenly struggling even more at first base. He was taken out for a pinch runner (John Mayberry Jr., who stayed in to play first) after walking in the eighth yesterday. But while he's hitting just .222, he's getting on base at a .352 clip, which would be his best OBP since 2010. Also, yeah, Howard cracked a homer yesterday, too.
And Phillies fans had a little trouble catching it in the stands. It's still early in the season for them, too.
Meanwhile, Jimmy Rollins hasn't slowed down too much since his opening-day grand slam: If his current numbers were to hold up, it would be his best season since his 2007 MVP year. Here's guessing he won't be that good, but Rollins is still producing as the season opens.
For example: On Saturday, Rollins hit a walkoff homer and immediately cursed out a heckler. “I very politely told him to shut the F up,” Rollins said.
Jimmy is just the best. The best! I made a few more angles of that one, if you're into that kind of thing.
But perhaps best of all? Phillies fans spent the bottom of the ninth doing the "YES!" chant of WWE World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan.
It's such a fun thing to chant. I suggest you try it at home. I'm going to pass on the easy guesses and posit that the blonde woman in the second row is the wrestling fan who started this chant: Look at the guns on her!
The Phillies are back in action tonight at home against the division-leading Atlanta Braves.
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