It was a dream weekend for the Philadelphia Phillies. There is no way anyone could have drawn up a better series to follow up the firing of Joe Girardi than what the Phils had against the Los Angeles Angels at Citizens Bank Park. After a 3 game sweep of the halos, Bryce Harper and company now look like they have new life for their season, but how realistic is it to think this team can fully turn things around? For me, at least, the answer lies in the remaining strength of schedule, and an easy road ahead for Rob Thomson in his first MLB managerial job.
The Phillies have had a rough first 54 games, but with 108 still to go, there certainly is time left for them to turn it around. The good news is that it appears their toughest challenges are already behind them. After playing one of the toughest schedules in all of baseball to start the season, the Phillies now have the 5th easiest strength of schedule remaining in the majors. They still have all 19 games to play against the last place Washington Nationals, they play 15 more against the Marlins (no way Miami wins all of those, right??), and they have 7 games each against the Reds and Pirates. Those are some very favorable matchups to say the least, and it sets the Phils up for a stretch where they could get really hot and run off a close to double digit win streak. Of course the offense will have to continue to perform, and the bullpen will have to significantly improve, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility. With them being just 4.5 games back of the final NL Wild Card spot, they are certainly in striking distance.
The division, though? That’s a totally different story. While the Phillies do indeed have the 5th easiest schedule in baseball the rest of the way, the New York Mets have the 4th easiest. They’re already 11 games up on the Phillies, and most of the games between the two teams have already been played. It is going to be near impossible for the Phils to catch the Mets, especially considering the opponents that round out New York’s schedule. The division was probably already out of the question even before checking the strength of schedule, but now it certainly seems that way. Is a 2007 type comeback scenario possible? Well, obviously history says that it’s absolutely a possibility, but I wouldn’t exactly count on it happening again. It looks like the wild card is going to have to be the way in for the Phillies, and the good news is that it looks like they have a real chance still to end up in one of the 3 available NL spots. It wouldn’t exactly lead to them running into the playoffs guns blazing, but ending the 10 year playoff drought is certainly still a possibility for this season.