After yet another series victory this weekend (over the Reds) the Phillies can’t possibly keep winning like this, can they?
“I think we’re as mentally tough as any team I’ve been on,” said outfielder Tyler Goeddel. “I wouldn’t’ be surprised if we can keep this going all year.”
Walk around the Phillies clubhouse and pose that question to every person in there, and that same response will be echoed from each individual. Philadelphia has won its last three series and has lost just one since April 21.
That mental toughness that Goeddel referenced goes back to spring training. That was when oddsmakers put the Phillies in the basement of the National League with all signs pointing to them being the worst team in baseball for a second straight season.
Since then, the odds have continually been stacked against them, even on a game-by-game basis. When playing with fire, a team is bound to get burnt more times than not. The Phillies, though, are essentially walking barefoot on lava with a league-leading 17 one-run games. Yet somehow, they've won 14 of them.
“People have been doubting us since the first game of the year,” said Jeremy Hellickson. “We’re just going to keep doing what we’ve been doing. Hopefully win some games by more than one run but it’s fun. I think we can keep it up.”
This has become a team that welcomes the challenge and the doubters. Pete Mackanin admitted that even he can’t “quantify the success” of his ball club.
“I just know pitching has a lot to do with that,” Mackanin said. “Our pitching has been outstanding. It tests your players and their ability to play well in close games. We’ve certainly done that all year and it’s a great feeling knowing your guys are always in the game and can come out on top.”
Hellickson opened the Cincinnati series with a gem that saw him go seven innings without an earned run and a season-high nine strikeouts with only one walk. That was followed up by Aaron Nola’s equally as impressive seven inning outing. Will that pitching hold up all season?
Mackanin knows there will be ebbs and flows to a season and does expect some “hiccups” to come eventually.
His players, however, believe they can avoid getting into a serious rut because of that mental toughness they have developed.
“There’s a lot of tough guys on this team,” Hellickson said. “A lot of guys that just play hard and have fun. A lot of guys that like winning and putting it all out there. That’s fun to be around.”
That’s about as accurate a statement to sum up the Phillies clubhouse as there is. It’s not hard to see why this team is winning when watching them take the field.
As that old, famous quote that was popularized by NBA superstar Kevin Durant goes, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard.