When this month began, the Phillies were cruising on their way to the division crown. Now we are just hoping that they remain relevant in the playoff race.
The date was August 8. The Phillies just pulled off a solid win over the Diamondbacks, riding six shutout innings from Nick Pivetta and a four-run eighth inning to a 5-2 win. That win brought them to 64-49, 15 games above .500 and up 1.5 games in the division. Confidence was high in a team that had been tied or held first place on their own for the last month.
My my, how the times have changed. Baseball in Philadelphia has not been a pretty sight since then. After the aforementioned win against the Diamondbacks, they have gone 6-13, bringing their record to 70-62 heading into Wednesday’s game against the Nationals. The team has just two wins in their last ten games.
Not only has the team been losing, they have been losing in gut-punching fashion. Every week there is a new “worst loss of the season” only to be followed up by another. Tuesday night was just another example as Aaron Nola outdueled Max Scherzer for the second time in a week, but defense, a shoddy bullpen, and a game-ending baserunning error by Vince Velasquez led to the 62nd loss of the year.
More from That Balls Outta Here
After going above .500 every month except for June (if you combine March and April), the Phils are just 11-14 in August. Meanwhile, the Braves are 17-10 this month, causing Philadelphia to fall all the way to 4.5 games behind the Braves in the National League East. They are also 2.5 games behind the second wild-card spot with three teams all standing in their way. Their playoff odds were well above 50% when August started; now those odds have fallen to just 31.6%.
If Philadelphia continues this pace through September, they will only win about 13 games the rest of the year. That would make their final record 83-79. Fangraphs still projects them to win 86 games.
Baseball Prospectus projects 85 wins. Barring a major collapse from the Braves, that record will not be enough to even sniff the playoffs.
The way the Phils have played recently, expecting them to remain above .500 seems almost too much. The offense and defense have both floundered, as they have for most of the season, but now even the pitching has struggled. They have a 4.86 ERA, .344 weighted on-base average against, 2.7 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and 1.49 WHIP, all of which rank at most in the worse half of the league.
At this point, the expectations for Philadelphia no longer is to win the division and/or make the playoffs. Now we are just looking for competent baseball on the field and the heartbreaking losses to stop. We saw that this team has the ability to play great baseball at multiple points this season, so to see them play so horrendously is never a good thing.
We will have to hope that once September rolls around and the rosters expand the Phillies will have enough players on the team to put together a consistent team. If not, it will be just as ugly as August has been.