After finally winning their first intra-division series, are the Phillies still alive in the race for the NL East?

Bryce Harper, #3, Kyle Schwarber, #12, J.T. Realmuto, #10, Philadelphia Phillies
Bryce Harper, #3, Kyle Schwarber, #12, J.T. Realmuto, #10, Philadelphia Phillies / Mitchell Leff/GettyImages

After winning game three of their first series against their NL East rival Washington Nationals, The Philadelphia Phillies have saved themselves from falling into last place in the NL East. The reigning National League champions have a disappointing record of 27-32 to start 2023 but won two games in a row in Washington to close out their first series against the Nationals in 2023 and snap a five-game losing streak suffered at the hands of three different NL East opponents.

The Phillies now have one series against every other NL East team in the books for the 2023 season. They were able to win two games in a three-game series victory against the Nationals in their first full series of June but were swept by the New York Mets in a three-game series prior to their trip to Washington. The Phillies did manage to split a four-game series with the Atlanta Braves on the road but also lost their first series with the Miami Marlins in Citizens' Bank Park two games to one when they matched up on April 10-12.

Despite these lackluster numbers, the 2023 Philadelphia Phillies do have some reasons to have optimism as we inch closer to the first day of Summer. The 2023 Phillies are fewer games out of the NL East lead in 2023 than the eventually division-champion Atlanta Braves were on June first, 2022, the team is also continuing to get healthier as we get deeper into the 2023 season.

Phillies are the healthiest they have been all season

When talking about the injuries sustained by Phillies players in 2023, it is impossible to avoid the fact that two-time National League Most Valuable Player Bryce Harper has had the fastest return from Tommy John surgery of any MLB player in history. Harper has been batting .300/.398/.460 in 2023 as a designated hitter, despite playing zero rehab games in the minor leagues. As time goes on, Harper will only continue to get healthier, and it will only be a matter of time until Harper returns to the field defensively for Philadelphia.

When Harper does return to defense, it could even be at the first base position. First baseman Rhys Hoskins, the longest-tenured batter for the Phillies, has missed all of 2023 with a torn ACL, and if he does play at all it in 2023 would not be until approximately October. Hoskins' replacement first base, Darick Hall, has not played a game since April due to requiring thumb surgery in his right thumb but began his minor league rehab assignment last week.

The Phillies have also dealt with injuries across their pitching staff as well. Starting pitcher Ranger Suárez, who was crucial to the Phillies' postseason success, made his return in May with four starts in the month. While the left-hander has an ERA of 7.13 and a WHIP of 1.642 in his four starts, he was able to pitch five innings or more in back-to-back starts, has had four or more strikeouts in every game he's pitched, and was able to earn his first win of 2023 against the Nationals on Sunday.

Aside from Suárez returning from an elbow injury, one of the Phillies' top bullpen arms, Jose Alvarado has also dealt with an elbow injury and is set to begin his rehab assignment this week in Reading with the Phillies' Double-A affiliate with the hopes he can return to the Phillies' major league bullpen when they host the Los Angeles Dodgers next weekend.

There is also 20-year-old prospect Andrew Painter, who entered 2023 as the MLB's top-ranked pitching prospect and was still ranked as the third pitcher and 12th prospect overall in the month of May, despite not playing a game at any level since his debut in Spring Training. The right-handed pitcher suffered a sprained UCL following his debut in the Grapefruit League, and the prospect who came into Spring Training with the potential to steal the job as the fifth starter still could make his big league debut sometime after the All-Star break, although it may be 2025 before we see Painter make the Phillies' Opening Day roster.

Will the Phillies be able to make a serious push for the NL East crown this year?

As it sits right now, there is much work to be done if the Phillies stand any chance of catching the Braves, Marlins, or even the Mets in the NL East race this season. The team's starting pitching needs to bring more authority and consistency to games, and the batters need to do more to get their baserunners across home plate.

While having contributors return from injuries and continue to get healthier as time goes on, we need to see more production from players who are healthy. Kyle Scwarber is a prime example of what needs to be done to improve the Phillies' fortunes, as the 2022 National League home run leader was batting under .200 in May, but was able to have a pair of three-run home runs on Sunday that helped propel the Phillies to an 11-3 victory.

After last postseason, the Phillies have proven that they are a very hard team to count out, but they have also been unable to capture a division title since 2011. While there are still over 100 games left in the 2023 season, the time is now for the Phillies to begin turning their season around, and players getting healthier and getting put in more comfortable positions to succeed should hopefully translate to more wins for the Fightin' Phils.