Who are these guys in red pinstripes, and what have they done with our Philadelphia Phillies? Whoever decided to show up for the 2nd half of the season, the team wearing the uniform of the Fightin’ Phils is not only a winning team, it is suddenly a dominant team.
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Since returning from the MLB All-Star break a week and a half ago, the Phillies are now 8-1 following yesterday afternoon’s big 11-5 win. The win completed a sweep of the host Chicago Cubs, and surely left the Wrigley Field faithful flabbergasted.
When the Phils came to town, the Cubs were 8 games over .500, and held the 2nd National League Wildcard playoff spot. After getting swept by a combined score of 21-8 and no-hit by Cole Hamels in the middle game, the Cubbies are now 2 1/2 games out of the Wildcard race.
The Phils have outscored the opposition by a 48-27 margin over these last 10 days, with only their 1-0 loss to Tampa standing in the way of a perfect record. They have now won three consecutive series, after previously not having even won two straight in the entire period before the break.
I’m not going to even attempt to answer the question at the headline of “who are these guys?” The answer is obvious: they are the Phillies, almost the same exact team that stunk it up for 3 1/2 months. But they are playing differently, better, suddenly and almost shockingly.
There has been one fairly significant change: the starting rotation has been bolstered by the addition of top pitching prospect Aaron Nola, who gained his first big league victory yesterday with 7.2 impressive innings over which he allowed just 5 hits, striking out 6 and walking two Cubs batters. He threw 63 strikes among his 92 pitches.
As strong as Nola (1-1) was, this one was really about the Phils’ offense. Every Phillies starter had at least one hit, including Nola. A full half-dozen had multi-hit games, including both Odubel Herrera and Domonic Brown with 3-hit days. Brown and Maikel Franco each drove in 3 runs, Franco clubbing his 11th homer. Ryan Howard blasted his 18th round-tripper of the season.
This offense came against a trio of Cubs pitchers, including starter Jason Hammel (5-5), who yielded 6 earned runs on 8 hits and a walk in just 3.1 innings. Travis Wood followed and gave up 2 more runs in 1.1 innings. Then Yoervis Medina was touched for 3 more on 6 hits over his own 3 innings.
Despite the hot streak, the Phillies are still going nowhere in the standings. They are still 26 games below the .500 mark, still have the worst record in baseball. But they are playing better baseball. Competitive, winning baseball, for the longest stretch of the season. For now, they are fun to watch, and that’s about the best that fans could have hoped for in this lost season.