Analysis

Phillies rivals keeping the pressure on as ‘dog days’ of August begin



The Phillies are trying to hang the franchise first NL East Champions banner in six years (Matt Veasey/Phillies Nation)

A glance at the calendar reveals this to be the first weekend of August. That means we have now entered the normally steaming hot ‘dog days’ of summer.

Down in South Philly at Citizens Bank Park, the Philadelphia Phillies are taking on the division rival Miami Marlins in a four-game series. During this particular weekend, the Phillies are glancing back at their past.

The annual Alumni Weekend began with last night’s tribute to Shane Victorino. Tonight will feature the induction of two key figures in recent Phillies history to the franchise Wall of Fame. The general manager of the 2008 World Series champions, Hall of Famer Pat Gillick, will be honored. Also enshrined will be the late, great Roy Halladay.

On Sunday it will be the first full-blown reunion of that 2008 World Series championship team. Gillick and Victorino will be back for that 10th anniversary celebration along with two more Wall of Famers in Pat Burrell and manager Charlie Manuel. Numerous other players from that team will be present as well, including Brett Myers, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Carlos Ruiz, Jayson Werth, and many more.

For the first time in six years, honoring the past will not be the only source of excitement for Phillies fans. After a frustratingly long rebuilding program, the present-day Phillies are once again contenders.

The 2018 Phillies team enters tonight’s contest in first place in the National League East Division. Their 61-48 record comes out to a .560 winning percentage. The second place Atlanta Braves are 59-47, a half-game behind the Phillies with a .557 winning percentage.

But as you can see from the records of the two teams, the Braves actually have fewer losses than the Phillies. They have played three fewer games to this point in the schedule. Those games will be made up over the next three weeks as Atlanta will get little rest during the month.

Vince Velasquez pitched the Phillies past the Marlins on Friday night. As quoted by Todd Zolecki of MLB.com, Velasquez is enjoying this weekend’s celebrations of the team’s championship past, as well as the fan reactions.

“The whole excitement and hype going around the stadium generates the momentum that we thrive to have. It drove me to come out on top today and pitch a little better. My whole mentality was to attack hitters. But the fact that we saw fans get on their feet the way they do is a solid inspiration of what we’ll be having the next couple weeks, few months. It’s something I can’t wait for it to happen.”

The Braves will enjoy an off-day on Monday. But that will be followed by a Tuesday doubleheader at Washington as the Phillies two closest current division rivals square off in a huge four-game series. This begins a stretch of 22 games over 20 days before finally, on August 27, the Braves will get their next scheduled day off.

The Nationals have won four of the last six NL East crowns and are currently in third place. Due largely to injuries, the Nats have underachieved for much of the season.

The Nationals will host the Braves next week at Nationals Park in a big four-game series between the Phillies biggest rivals.

While it has been a frustrating season in our nation’s capital, the Nationals have showed some signs of late that they may finally be getting healthy. With victories in six of their last eight games, they appeared to finally be pulling it together.

The Cincinnati Reds slowed the Nationals down a bit with a 7-1 thumping in this afternoon’s first game of a split-doubleheader. Those two will meet again on Saturday night in Washington and then once more on Sunday afternoon before the Braves arrive in D.C. on Tuesday.

Those Braves have been on the warpath of late. Their 2-1 victory at Citi Field on Friday night against the hapless New York Mets gave Atlanta five wins in a row. The Braves have made up two games on their deficit to the Phillies during this current winning streak.

After this weekend’s games and festivities are over, the Phillies will head west on a six-game road trip to Arizona and San Diego. While their rivals duel one another next week, the Phillies do battle with the Dbacks, currently tied for first place in the NL West Division.

So, to recap, entering Saturday night, Atlanta is a half-game back. They are a game better in the all-important loss column, and on a winning streak. The Nationals are a full six games back, appear to be getting healthy, and will try to make a move when they go head-to-head with the Braves in four games at home next week.

A look down the road shows that the Phillies still have nine contests remaining with Washington. Those all come during a three-week stretch beginning August 21. Six of the games will be at Citizens Bank Park.

Meanwhile, the Phillies and Braves don’t meet again until September 20. But then they will face-off seven times over their final 11 games.

It all begins with a four-game series at Sun Trust Park in Atlanta. Then the regular season is due to end with a three-game showdown between the two clubs at Citizens Bank Park from September 28-30.

There is a lot of baseball still to play between now and those late September games. The calendar doesn’t officially turn to Fall until that series in Atlanta ends on September 23.

With a pair of talented division rivals apparently not willing to let up, the Phillies performance during these “dog days” of summer in the month of August will go a long way towards determining just how important those final games become.

 

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. czontixhldr

    August 5, 2018 at 1:45 am

    Good summation, Matt.

    After Saturday’s games the Phillies are 1-1/2 up on the Braves and 6 up on the Nats. The Phillies and Nats have 52 games left, the Braves have 55.

    The Braves are the closest in proximity and the bigger threat, despite the Nats playing better, because every Phils win makes the hill a bit bigger for the Nats to climb.

    If the Phillies just go .500 the rest of the way, 26 – 26, the Nats need to go 33 – 19 (.634) to top them in the division. Any games above .500 make it that much tougher for the Nats. The Nats certainly have the talent, but the Phillies need to take care of business and they’ll be OK.

    The Phillies are 5 – 7 against the Braves this season, and 3 – 5 against the Mets. IMO in order to win the division, they need to reverse those trends the rest of the season.

    • Ken Bland

      August 5, 2018 at 12:22 pm

      And if the Phillies win the division, what then? All of a sudden, the rest of the broader picture falls into focus. Might as well pay attention to it now, largely because the Phillies at home and the Phillies on the road are of drastically different records, and home field is next to there for the taking.

      Cubs, and only the Cubs among League participants are 2 games ahead of the Phils.Zona, a game back of the Phils thus takes on additional importance this week. A large puzzle remains. But it still comes down to one pitch, one inning at a time.

  2. pamikeydc

    August 5, 2018 at 10:54 am

    Great write up Matt. And I agree w you and czon. Count me in as still not totally believing yet. We can be skeptical as fans right? 🙂

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