The Phillies season hasn’t been the prettiest thing to watch, but it’s certainly been the right step forward.
Looking around the league, the team finds itself not at the bottom like last season, but on the cusp of the top 20 teams in all of baseball. Now that’s nothing to be proud about, but again, this is a team that finished dead last a year ago with just 63 wins. Prior to their series finale with San Francisco in a series they’ve already won, the Phillies find themselves with more wins than the Los Angeles Angels, Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays – all of which are pretty talented organizations that hit a rut. Even the defending World Series champions, Kansas City, have just one more win than the Phillies.
As a team, Philadelphia is 13 wins away from what they had last season with 53 games to go. For comparison, over their last 53 games, the Phillies have gone 23-30 as of Thursday. If they finish the season on that pace, they would finish with a 73-89 record – a 10-win improvement. As of now, that definitely seems likely. The Phillies have been winning some tough games, none more so than Wednesday’s 12-inning thriller.
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“That was huge for us,” said catcher Cameron Rupp. “For us to battle back… and hit those home runs to win, it’s huge.”
It’s a victory like that, a highlight of their recent 4-2 stretch since July 28, which gives a team confidence down the stretch. While they won’t necessarily have much to play for with them being a distant eight games out of the final wild card spot, they’ll continue to be a pesky team for opposing clubs. Take last year for example when they strung together a surprise sweep of the New York Mets in their second to last series or when they took two of four games against the Chicago Cubs early in September. This year’s ball club appears to be in better shape than a year ago and prospects like Jake Thompson and J.P. Crawford should start getting their names called. Once that happens, it’ll serve almost as a spark plug, the same way the team responded when Tommy Joseph was called up – winning four of the first six games afterwards – and more recently Zach Eflin, who saw the team win in five of his first seven starts with two of those being no-decisions on his end.
It may not seem like it, but the Phillies' 2016 season campaign has gone just as planned, and that in itself is a victory. Playoffs were never truly a realistic option despite their early season success, but the most important thing about this season was going to be progress, and right now, there’s been plenty of that. And it looks as though the final two months of the season should be an entertaining one with plenty of optimism around the clubhouse.