The Prophecy and September Baseball
Twelve days ago, the Phillies were coming off a 5-game losing streak. The bullpen was in shambles. While flicking through TV channels as we waited for the bullpen to inevitably blow another lead, we watched the Sixers get swept by the Boston Celtics and the Flyers start off hot in the playoffs only to fizzle and reach the point of elimination at the hands of the New York Islanders. For months we wanted sports back, and like clockwork, we watched Philadelphia sports struggle to bring joy back in our lives.
At the time, Bryce Harper summed up the team’s desperation when he said the Phillies needed to do something drastic, like “win nine of 10 games” to save their season. In a 60 game season, where Bryce Harper described it as “a sprint to the finish”, the Phillies found themselves on the outside looking in.
Fast forward to today, the Phillies have done something that the Sixers and Flyers have both failed to do: Fight.
Last night, the boys won for the 8th time in 9 games when they blanked Max Scherzer and the Washington Nationals, 3-0, at Citizens Bank Park.
The red hot Phillies are now 17-15 and 3 games back of the 1st place Atlanta Braves. If the season ended today, they would be playoff bound for the first time since 2011. This team was able to turn things around, just like their leader Bryce Harper ordered.
The Phillies will send Zach Eflin to the mound today at 4:05pm with the “9 of 10 games” prophecy on the line. For the season, the Phillies are 5-0 against the Nationals, who stupidly tweeted that the Phillies can’t beat them before the start of this series. From there, we’ll head to New York for a series with the Mets.
Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler dominated the Nationals over the last two games. The duo has allowed just five hits over 14 2/3 scoreless innings. Nola has a 2.45 ERA in seven starts this season. Wheeler has a 2.20 ERA in seven starts.
The bats are alive. After a slow start, fans were calling for Rhys Hoskins’ neck (TLL’s Steven Conrad Jr. and Broad Street Buddies Nicky P, most notably). He responded by going 7 for 12 with 3 HR, 8 RBI, 4 R, 1 BB, 1 SO over his last 7 games. Andrew McCutchen has similar numbers averaging .355 with 8 R, 3 HR, and 9 RBI. Bryce Harper and JT Realmuto have been in a bit of rut the last few games but it’s no reason for concern…yet. Alec Bohm has been fantastic at the plate since being called up, batting .288 with 2 HR and 9 RBI.
All of the above considered, historically, the Phillies have not been great in September over the past few years. From 2012 through last season, the Phillies were 30 games under .500 in the month of September. Their .431 winning percentage in the month over that span ranked 27th out of 30 MLB teams. The Phillies’ problems were particularly bad the last two seasons as they went a combined 20-36 and fell out of postseason contention both times in September.
Of course, this is a new year, with new players, and a new manager in Joe Girardi. Credit to Girardi for guiding this team through an unprecedented season that’s been filled with reschedules, cancellations, and a ton of 7-inning double headers. The Phillies only have one or two days off from here on out.
Girardi has this team focused and is making all the right moves. One that stood out recently was putting Neil Walker in last night against Scherzer, giving Hoskins the day-off. Hoskins was 0 for 17 with 10 strikeouts against Scherzer. Walker came into the game 7 for 32 with three homers against Scherzer. He added three singles in this game.
The Phils are averaging 5.61 runs per game, third highest in the majors. Mind you, that’s with the current mini-slump of Realmuto and Harper. In the last 2 weeks, Harper has hit .150 and Realmuto .229. Combined, they’ve hit .193. The duo has driven in 12 of the 74 runs scored over that span. The Phillies went 8-6 in those games, making up for all of their losses when Harper and Realmuto were on fire, but just imagine what this offense could be with everyone clicking at the same time.
September is here. We’re in the final stretch. The Phillies are hot and the momentum couldn’t come at a better time.
Ring that bell, baby.