It has not been the strongest start to the season for the Philadelphia Phillies, but this weekend, they might have finally broken through. After getting swept by the Mets up in New York, the Phillies traveled down to Washington to round out a 10-game NL East road trip with 3 games against the Nationals. The opening game wasn’t great, with Zack Wheeler getting knocked around a bit by a Washington lineup that isn’t all that good, but the Phillies ended their 5-game losing streak with a win in Game 2 and then opened the floodgates in the final game of the series on Sunday. It was an awesome performance and one that hopefully points towards a coming breakthrough for a team that has struggled mightily early on this season.
Now, if you’ll remember, the 2022 Phillies didn’t really hit their stride until the month of June. Part of that had to do with the firing of Joe Girardi and the promotion of Rob Thomson to interim manager, which obviously is not something that will be repeatable this year. But another part of it had to do with just the weirdness of baseball. Some people call it mentality, and some people, like Charlie Manuel, would call it “Hittin’ season”, but however you break it down, the June Philadelphia Phillies were an absolute force in 2022. Not only was the team better, but individual players broke through this time last year, mainly Kyle Schwarber. Schwarber, who might be the greatest hitter in the month of June in the history of baseball, turned it on again last year, helping the Phils crawl back into the playoff hunt. So, the bottom line, there’s the origin of the June Philadelphia Phillies.
This year, though, the roster is more talented and less productive. The Phillies have by all accounts improved their team this offseason, and yet the 2023 season has been a striking disappointment so far. They started off the month of June by falling to last place in the NL East, and the fan base fell into a pretty dark place as well. But the losing streak was broken in Game 2 in Washington, and then in the getaway game, the Phillies finally broke out. Of course, it was Kyle Schwarber who played a big role in the Phils’ 11-3 win, hitting a pair of 3-run homers to open up thoughts of a June hot streak once again. Newcomer Drew Ellis also homered twice in the game, JT Realmuto left the yard once, and Ranger Suarez put together a strong start to make sure the Nationals didn’t have any chance of mounting a comeback. It was a beautiful game, and for the first time in a while, there was some optimism of a turnaround.
The Phillies still have a long way to go to reach expectations for the 2023 season, but everyone in Philadelphia’s fingers and toes are crossed that this was finally the breakout game. They’ll start a home series with the Detroit Tigers on Monday night, a team that has struggled this season as well and is very beatable. If the Phils come out and get handled by a bad Detroit team, we’re all going to feel dumb for even enjoying Sunday’s drubbing of the Nationals, but maybe, just maybe, this is the beginning of a stretch where the Phillies turn into the team we all thought they would be before the season started. If not, it’s going to be a long summer.