Behind the Phillies surprising start to the season is their ability to have a puncher’s chance every outing.
“They don’t give up,” said manager Pete Mackanin before the team embarked on its current 10-game road trip. “What makes it easier to not give up is when you’re in the game in the sixth and seventh inning.”
So far, the Phillies have been in almost every game as evidence by their 11-3 mark in one-run games. That total is by far the best in baseball. The next closest team in wins is Seattle with seven. Moreover, eight of the 15 National League teams hold a .500 or below mark in games decided by one run entering Sunday.
Just how impressive is that 11-3 tally (improved Sunday in a 6-5 victory vs. Miami)?
The Phillies were 16-27 in one-run games just last season. Through 29 games this year, the team finds themselves five wins away from matching their entire 2015 total. They also are 3-0 in extra innings this season after going 6-9 last year.
This growth shows the Phillies are heading in the right direction. Just being able to hang in around every game is impressive enough after what they went through a year ago, but the fact that they are finally winning these types of games is reason to believe in the Phillies process.
All of this growth coming in less than a calendar year, as well.
Believing you can win and actually carrying out that belief are two different things, of course. This is a roster that has talent, much of which remains a work in progress, but that’s not the biggest difference with this year’s team from last’s.
Mackanin deserves a lot of credit for this rather rapid transformation from a team that clinched the No. 1 pick to a roster that believes they have as good of a chance as anyone to compete all season for a wild card spot. He’s instilled his infectious confidence onto his players and that has in turn spread onto the field every night.
The attitude has created a 180-degree change from the down-in-the-dumps atmosphere that took over much of 2015 to the now boisterous and youthful buzz that circulations through the clubhouse. When looking at their success in one-run games so far, look no further than this change in atmosphere.
As Mackanin said, their never-say-die mindset will only strengthen as they continue to find themselves in games entering the later innings.
More importantly, though, is that these situations – one-run games accounting for nearly half of their games entering Sunday – are only going to benefit the Phillies in the seasons to come. The more these young players learn how to win, the quicker this process will go.
In the meantime, their success in close games has defined their hopeful start.