Yesterday, the Phils walked off via back-to-back homers in the ninth inning for the first time since MLB began collecting official records in 1930. If that wasn’t unlikely enough, the Phillies who hit the two home runs were Erik Kratz and Freddy Galvis, who came into the game with 11 and five MLB homers respectively for their careers. And how about the pitcher they did it against, Aroldis Chapman? Chapman entered the game with a 2.41 ERA and 30 K in 18.2 IP and came off a 2012 where the fire-balling lefty had a 1.51 ERA with 122 Ks in 71.2 IP with a WHIP under one.
Perhaps the most remarkable feat, however, was the fact that, by winning, the Phillies had a won a series two games to one despite being outscored 8-15.
Yesterday’s game wrapped up a what can only be described as a remarkable stretch for the Phils. The Phillies have not lost a series since May 1, posting, what feels like, a pedestrian 9-7 record. Two of those losses came against the lowly Marlins, but since then, the Phillies played four teams who are a combined 27 games over .500 in what was arguably their toughest stretch of the season and posted a 7-5 mark, winning series against the Wild Card-leading Reds and the half-game-out-of-the-West Giants and split with the first place Diamondbacks and Indians.
Coming off possibly the low-point of the season, where Roy Halladay gave up nine earned runs against the lowly Fish and revealed that he was injured, the Phillies answered the bell against four teams with among the top records in baseball. Is this the stretch of the season that changes the course of the Phillies season?
The Phillies would first have to get a handle on consistently preventing runs. Or at least holding the opposing team under six. For instance, as Joe Catz points out, the Phillies are 20-12 when the opposition scores less than six runs. The Phillies’ actual record of 21-23 and run differential of 156-190 translates into a Pythagorean record of 17-27. The Phils are outperforming their Pythagorean projection based on ten blowout losses of five runs or more compared to only four of their wins being of five runs or more.
Now a lot of the Phillies losses of five or more runs were already decided and the wonderful bullpen performances of Chad Durbin, Jeremy Horst, and Raul Valdes exacerbated games that were already out of hand. The starting pitching ranks 16th in ERA and 16th in xFIP. While that’s solid, there is absolutely room for the starting pitching to improve, and anyone, Tyler Cloyd or anyone else for that matter, is an upgrade of an injured Doc.
But a solid starting staff can only take a team so far: a majority of the issue rests with the offense that ranks 26th in the MLB in runs scored, 26th in on base percentage, and 26th in slugging. I’d bring up the bullpen but a lot of the bullpen’s troubles came in the ten blowout losses and it is hard to pull those apart.
Friend of the site Spike Eskin asked if it was “still early” for the Phillies season. My answer? With 118 games left, or about 73% of the season left, and with the Phillies just 4.5 games back, it is definitely still early. And with a winning record against teams with four of the best records in baseball in a 12 game stretch, the Phillies certainly look like they have started to put things together. But where will they end up? Only these wild and crazy guys know for sure.