NL East opponents looking up at the Phillies

by Marc Narducci | Aug 11, 2021
NL East opponents looking up at the Phillies

 It goes to show how quickly things can change over the course of a 162-game Major League Baseball schedule.

The Phillies entered Tuesday’s game against the Los Angeles Dodgers with an 8-game winning streak. Before the streak, they were 4.5 games out of first place and seemingly falling out of the National League East race.

They began the week in first place in the East and with the way things have been going, have to be considered the frontrunner.

The New York Mets led the Phillies by a half game entering their weekend series, but in losing all three games, fell 2.5 games behind the Phils.

Atlanta, entered Tuesday 2.0 games behind the Phillies.

So right now the Phillies are the team to beat.

Remember at the July 30 trade deadline, when so many fans (and media members) were encouraging the Phillies to be sellers?

That has never been the strategy of Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowsk when his team was within decent distance berth.

Dombrowski strengthened the Phillies at the trade deadline, acquiring starting pitcher Kyle Gibson and closer Ian Kennedy in a trade with the Texas Rangers.

Gibson went 2-0 with a 2.13 ERA in winning his first two starts with the Phillies, while Kennedy was successful in his first two save situations.

What is interesting about the Phillies is that they have candidates for the two most prestigious awards – the MVP and Cy Young.

Bryce Harper has been on an MVP tear and entered Tuesday with a .302/.413/.570 slash line. He had 20 home runs and 45 RBI. His .983 OPS is among the best in MLB.

Zack Wheeler improved to 10-6 with a 2.42 ERA following Sunday’s two-hit complete game effort in the Phillies 3-0 victory over his former team, the New York Mets.

Wheeler has struck out 181 in 156 innings. The only concern is how he will fare when the innings continue to pile up because he only threw 71 innings during the pandemic-shortened season a year ago. He has already thrown more than twice as many this year, but on Sunday didn’t appear bothered by the wear and tear.

It will be something to watch as the season progresses, not only with Wheeler but any starting pitcher who has such a huge increase in innings pitched from last year to this season.

In Wheeler, Aaron Nola and Gibson, the Phillies have a formidable three starting pitchers to throw at opponents if they indeed reach the postseason.

The Phillies have not qualified for the postseason nine straight years, with the last appearance in 2011.

Many may forget how energized Citizens Bank Park and the Phillies fan base was in 2011, which was the fifth straight year the Phillies qualified for the playoffs.

The buzz is beginning to circulate even as the Eagles begin training camp.

The NFL is the top sport in Philadelphia and many other cities, but the Phillies can also generate plenty of excitement. All they have needed is a winner.

 

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Author: Marc Narducci

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