The Phillies, once left for dead by many, including myself, continue to defy the odds.
Their 9-7 win over the Florida Marlins at Citizens Bank Park Tuesday night was their sixth in a row and 14th victory in their last 18 games. And with losses by the Cardinals, Dodgers and Pirates on Tuesday, the Phillies (and Brewers) have now moved to within four games of the second wild card spot in the National League. They trail Pittsburgh by a game and a half and the Dodgers by three. And don’t sleep on Milwaukee, who is also hot and making a charge, arm-in-arm, with the Phils.
Look, the odds are still long. But with every day the Phillies continue their winning streak and the teams in front of them stumble, those odds increase.
Just three days ago, their odds of making the playoffs was about 0.3%.
As of Wednesday morning, they are now 3.0%.
And while that’s still a very, very small number and it’s a far greater likelihood that it’s not going to happen, this September run sure has made things fun again.
I’d love to say the Phils were led by Roy Halladay, Tuesday night’s starter, but it was another strange outing for the veteran right-hander against the Fish.
And by strange, I don’t mean good.
Halladay pitched into the seventh but appeared to hit a brick wall once there. At the end of the day, he gave up five earned runs on seven hits in 6 1/3 innings with three walks and six strikeouts, although it didn’t help that the home plate umpire Mark Wegner’s strike zone was about as consistent as Andy Reid’s play-calling.
Still, Halladay needed to be bailed out by a bullpen that once again came through. Phillipe Aumont gave up a hit and a walk in the eighth, but recorded two huge strikeouts to get out of the inning unscathed, and Jonathan Papelbon closed things down with an uneventful, two-strikeout ninth for his 33rd save of the year.
He was also bailed out by an offense that was clicking on all cylinders against Marlins’ starter Nate Eovaldi, tagging him for five earned runs on eight hits in just four innings. Jimmy Rollins led the way with his team-leading 18th home run, going 2-3 with three RBIs. Walking, talking trade rumor Juan Pierre continued to pile up the hits, notching three more to raise his batting average to .309. Between them, Rollins and Pierre scored five of the Phillies’ nine runs, precisely what you want your table setters to do.
Chase Utley also added three hits, and Carlos Ruiz, Dom Brown and Roy Halladay had RBI hits as well.
So now, with 20 games left, the Phillies are just four games out of a playoff spot. The teams in front of them are crumbling.
It’s not possible, right?
Where It All Went Right
In the bottom of the 6th, when the Marlins’ battery of pitcher Chris Hatcher and rookie catcher Rob Brantley gave away the game to the Phillies.
First, with Michael Martinez on second base after a lead-off double, Roy Halladay came to the plate. Roy is one of the worst hitting pitchers in the National League and, after falling behind 2-0, Harcher blew two fastballs right by him to even the count at 2-2. So, of course, what did the young duo do next? They out-thought themselves, throwing Halladay a 74 mile-per-hour cupcake that Roy laced into center field for an RBI single.
Then, with Halladay on first and Jimmy Rollins at the plate, the Phils’ shortstop hit what would have been his 89th infield pop-up of the season (that’s a rough guess based on actually no research whatsoever, by the way) behind the plate. As Brantley circled under it, he stumbled, lost sight of the ball, and dropped it.
On the very next pitch, Jimmy did this. The best part? Brantley slamming his mask down on the ground in frustration as the ball sailed out of the ballpark.
Those are the kinds of breaks the Phils A) weren’t getting in the first four and a half months of the season and B) didn’t take advantage of when they did. If the Phillies end up doing this thing, I think this moment will be the one we look back on and say was the omen.
Most Attractive Play
It’s gotta be Brantley’s foul-pop adventure in the 6th. I imagine that little two-batter stretch in the sixth earned the young signal-caller a conversation with Ozzie Guillen in the manager’s office after the game. Although, I think the odds that Brantley was able to understand anything Ozzie was saying is about 20-25%.
Jimmy Rollins, who has really turned his game around and continues to be the Phils’ best power hitter, blasting number 18 on the season, passing the now-departed Hunter Pence for the team lead in dingers. How often does a lead-off hitter lead his team in bombs? Not very often. Paging Jayson Stark… paging Jayson Stark… time to get those ESPN stat geeks on the job!
Ozzie Guillen, just ’cause.