A lot has gone wrong for the Phillies this year. If I told you that both Nick Castellanos and JT Realmuto would be slugging under .400, Joe Girardi would be fired, Bryce Harper and Jean Segura would be hurt, and Corey Knebel would lose the closer job, you’d assume the Phillies would be having a disaster of a season. But instead, here we are, with them being 46-39 a week before the All-Star break. if the season ended now, they would break their decade-long playoff drought. Despite it all, they are persevering. We have seen the Phillies be in the playoff hunt at this point in this drought before. But something feels different about this Phillies team.
It all started with Girardi being fired. Before that, the season was well on its way to being a disaster. They were 22-29, 7 games under .500, and well out of the playoffs. Rhys Hoskins was struggling, as was Kyle Schwarber, and pretty much everyone. The bullpen was struggling to protect leads, with Knebel struggling with walks. Nothing was going well, and there was a sense of apathy that spread from the Manager to the players, and even the fans. But Thomson has turned the team around to the tune of a 24-10 record, to get them not only in the mix but leaders in the clubhouse for the third wildcard spot.
I keep hearing people say, ‘The Phillies don’t win that game last year.” Most recently after yesterday’s win. The Phillies held a 1 run lead, in the bottom of the ninth. with no outs and runners on 1st and 3rd. A less than ideal situation to be in. But then Knebel, who had struggled earlier in the year, pulled it out. The Phillies got the win. And this 34-game stretch is full of games like that. Games they always seemed to lose the last couple of years but won this year. Something feels different. But what is it?
To start, the bullpen has finally come together. There have been bumps, but for the most part, ever since Knebel was removed as the full-time closer, this bullpen has been great. Their bullpen ERA is all the way down to 3.74. Since Thomson took over it is 3.13. In July, the bullpen ERA is .68. Even Knebel is pitching better, evident from his save yesterday. Seranthony Dominguez and Brad Hand are dominating. Andrew Bellatti has been a pleasant surprise. This bullpen has gone from being the worst in the MLB the past couple of years, to now one of the best. That 3.13 number would be 4th in the league over the full season.
Aaron Nola has regained his form after a disastrous season last year. Zack Wheeler is having another Cy Young Caliber year. Kyle Schwarber is one of the most prolific power threats in the league. Rhys Hoskins is swinging the bat well. Are there some problems? Sure. The Phillies are getting no production out of centerfield, or Shortstop. But they are winning anyway. And they have reinforcements incoming. Not only via Bryce Harper and Jean Segura eventually returning to the lineup, but possibly via trade.
The past decade has taught us not to believe in this team. There has even been talk of changing the name of Murphy’s Law to Phillies Law, because in recent history what can go wrong for the Phillies, will go wrong. You have good reason to doubt them. But this season, something feels different. Even with all those things that have gone wrong, the Phillies continue to win. They are right in the mix for the wildcard, and now have tie breakers in it over the Cardinals, Brewers and Padres. The Phillies continue to persevere even with every new obstacle thrown at them. So enjoy it. Buy in. Because something feels different, and this may be the year they end the drought. This summer could be a ton of fun, and you don’t want to miss out.