The second half of this season, especially the month of August, has been generally kind to the Philadelphia Phillies after what was a very disappointing first half. Going into the All-Star break, the Phils were 37-50, dead last in the NL East (14 games back) and ten games back in the Wild Card race with eight teams ahead of them.
Since then, the Phils have turned it around with a 28-20 record that has them third in the division and sixth in the Wild Card race.
Some Phillies fans remain hopeful that their beloved “Phightin’ Phils” can somehow hold onto any sliver of hope and make a playoff run reminiscent of last year’s eventual World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals, but some have completely given up all hope and are preparing for the NFL season to begin.
With a good month of August (17-12), only 2 worse than the NL-leading Washington Nationals, things began to look up. The Phillies have fought and clawed their way to just 8 games back in the Wild Card race and still can see a little light shining through the proverbial door that is [barely] cracked open. The Phillies were 7-3, which included a sweep over the Washington Nationals and a near sweep of the Atlanta Braves, in their last 10 games heading into a 3-game series with the red-hot Cincinnati Reds.
After a heartbreaking, ninth-inning loss to the Braves on Sunday night, all hope seemed to have been lost, but the team’s second half resilience helped them bounce back Monday with a 4-2 win over the Reds. Rookie Tyler Cloyd put in a masterpiece in only his 2nd MLB start, stifling the potent Reds offense over seven strong innings.
Although the Phillies remain eight games back with little chance to make it to the playoffs, I can’t help but to imagine what could be IF we could continue on this 2nd half tear and somehow grab a playoff berth! Scary to think that there is still a sliver of hope and that we could be that hot team going into the playoffs . . . with a hot Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Erik Kratz, and Fransden. I hate to be such a homer, but I can’t help thinking (and hoping) “What if?”
With that said, there are plenty of positives to take from this second half even if the Phillies don’t make it to the playoffs.
We will be going into next season with a much healthier Howard, Utley, Carlos Ruiz, Roy Halladay and Vance Worley. Add in Kevin Frandsen and a resurgent Jimmy Rollins, and you have an improved lineup going into next season.
Reading Phillies 1B/LF/3B Darin Ruf is fighting for the AA triple crown and should compete for a roster spot next season as well. There is hope at 3B with the emergence of Frandsen (and possibly Ruf) and in the pen with young arms like Phillippe Aumont, Justin De Fratus and Jake Diekman making their way into the big leagues.
Even Domonic Brown, who was thought to be a lost cause, seems to have turned a bit of a corner and looks poised to compete for a starting OF job next spring. By trading away dead weight like Joe Blanton, Shane Victorino, and Hunter Pence, we have some wiggle room to make some moves moving forward. Although it seems bleak for the rest of this season, the future is still a bright one for this Phillies franchise.