Just when we thought it was time to change our inner “sports clock” to football season, the Phillies leapt back into our consciousness – you know, just in time to get us just excited enough again to feel pain.
But, damn the torpedos, I’m back in. With the Cardinals scuffling, I am actually starting to convince myself that this team has a shot…
Now, why would I (other than my eternal longing for sports heartache) actually believe that this 70-71 team can make up 5 games (jumping 4 teams) in three weeks? For several reasons:
1). This Isn’t the Same Team
They are not anywhere near the same team that was mired in last place for the majority of the season. Remember that that team was without their #3 and #4-hitters, as well as their #1 starter. Not to mention the disappearing act that Cliff Lee pulled off at the start of the season. Yes, I know that Victorino, Pence, and Blanton were traded away, and that is significant, but considering this team has added an Utley, a Howard, and a Halladay, the losses are mitigated. Is this a better team on September 1st than we expected to see at the beginning of the season? Absolutely not. Is this a better team than it was in June and July? It just might be…
2). The Rest of the Field
Outside of the 3 division leaders and the Braves, who is uncatchable? Once the Cardinals took over the wild card lead, I thought they would run away and hide with it, but they have some serious issues, themselves, particularly in that starting rotation. The Dodgers added a half-a-billion dollars in assets, but don’t look better because of it. With Kershaw showing mortality, that staff doesn’t scare anyone either. The Pirates look finished, and the Brewers are in the same boat as the Phils and I would absolutely take this Phillies team in a dead heat with the Brewers right now.
3). Starting Pitching Wins
As has always been – pitching wins. Halladay, Lee, and Hamels will be starting 60-65% of the games the rest of the way, and with workman-like efforts from Kyle Kendrick and Tyler Cloyd, it’s hard to imagine that this team will be outpitched all that many times the rest of the way.
4). The Schedule
The Phils have two more with the Fish before heading on the road to Houston and New York for 4 and 3, respectively. With the Marlins reeling, the Astros being one of the worst teams in recent memory, and the Mets imploding, is it crazy to think that the Phils could win 7, or even 8, of their next 9? After that, they have a tough 6-game homestand with the Braves and Nationals that very well could be their last stand. But, if they can survive that, it’s 3 more with Miami at home, followed by a season-ending 3-game set with a Nats team that will be preparing for their first ever trip to the playoffs. It’s not ridiculous to think that they can win 15 more games – putting them at 85.
Now, let’s look at the other teams:
The Cardinals are really the problem here. If they split the final two in San Diego, they will be at 76 wins, and then they have 9 straight against either the Astros or Cubs. The Phillies chances really lie with these bad teams winning at least 3 of those 9. Six wins there (probably the best-case scenario) puts the Cards at 82. They also have 4 with the Dodgers, which aren’t easy, but with the Dodgers ahead of the Phils, too, it won’t be possible to gain ground on both teams. Say the Dodgers take 3 of 4, that puts the Cardinals at 82. They then finish with 6 at home against the Nats and Reds. If they lose 4 of 6 (not crazy), that would put them at 85…which is catchable…barely.
The Dodgers sit at 74 wins, but are really struggling and have a pretty tough road left to hoe. They have 4 with St. Louis before coming east for 6 games with the division-leading Nationals and Reds. They then fly out to San Diego for three, before finishing the season at home with the Rockies and Giants. We had to give them 3 from St. Louis to keep the Cards within reach, so that’s 77. It’s not crazy to think that they will lose 4 of the 6 on the east coast (possibly, 5), so that’s 79 wins. They should get 4 out of 6 from San Diego and Colorado (not a given), giving them 83. Then, they finish up with 3 against the Giants, so 84 wins is likely – catchable.
The Pirates and Brewers
The Phils are currently tied with Milwaukee and 2.5 behind the Buckos. Let’s be realistic, if they are going to actually going to make a legitimate run at this, they are going to outplay Milwaukee, and they are going to be 3+ games better than a fading Pirates team.
Either way, I’m back in – and ready to have my heart ripped back out. Why can’t these teams ever just stay out?!?