Let’s Get Irrationally Excited About the Phillies’ Playoff Chances!
The Phillies won five consecutive division titles from 2007 to 2011. Before their run of success in the NL East, they were competitive almost every season from 2001 to 2006. They were fun to watch down the stretch for pretty much a decade. Even in those years before their run, they got pretty close to the playoffs. They were fun to watch in August and September.
The team’s fortunes have declined since their 102-win season (and subsequent first-round playoff exit) in 2011. The Phillies were close-ish to the Wild Card in 2012, finishing seven games back. They had the worst record in baseball last season. But this year, after an 8-4 start to the month of August, the Phillies are just 6.5 games back of making the playoffs. Sure, there are four teams between them and the St. Louis Cardinals, currently the second Wild Card. But who cares? Wild card fever, baby!
In reality, the Phillies are probably not going to make the playoffs this season. But that we can even pretend they’re in the hunt for that second NL wild-card spot is a reason to be optimistic about the future. The worst is over. Yes, these are the Phillies, still, but it seems like they’ll be good again in the next few years.
And, right now, you can see how they’d have a chance. The Phillies have played well recently because of their offense. If the pitching starts to come around, the team could reel off a bunch of wins in a row to get to within two or three games of the Wild Card. Then they’d actually be in it! They opened the season 24-17, so a stretch to get the currently 56-63 team to .500 is a possibility. Their sweep of the Rockies, completed yesterday, made it four wins in a row.
Of course, none of this is likely. Ryan Howard — who entered August hitting .168 — has been hitting .458 this month. Two of their promising young starting pitchers, Aaron Nola and Zach Eflin, are on the disabled list. Yesterday’s game involved a Jimmy Paredes homer, just the 20th of his career. This Phillies have a tough stretch coming up against the Dodgers and Cardinals this week.
Who knows, though? If they beat up on L.A. and St. Louis, they’re going to move up in the Wild Card standings. Maybe the pitching holds up. Maybe the hitting stays hot. Maybe we’ll be rooting on the Phillies well into September this year. Maybe.
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