If much of anything stands out from the first 40 games of the Philadelphia Phillies’ season, it’s that maddeningly inconsistent. A six-game losing streak was immediately followed by a five-game winning streak, which after taking two out of three from the Colorado Rockies this past weekend, has landed them at 20-20 roughly a quarter of the way through the regular season.
Much of this inconsistency can hopefully be accrued to injury. The team started the season without their best player, Bryce Harper, whose speedy return from Tommy John surgery has only added to his status as a modern-day folk hero. In the 10 games since Harper’s return, the team has gone 5-5 – partially the product of their erratic style of play in the last 12 or so games – and appears to be playing with reinvigorated energy and confidence. Harper, for his part, has 13 hits in 39 at-bats with 2 home runs and five RBIs. The team has won both games in which Harper has hit a home run and have rallied behind their leader, as only a team with an ostensibly healthy and productive clubhouse dynamic can do.
The absence of the team’s third-best starting pitcher, Ranger Suarez, also contributed to the tumultuous ups and downs of these first 40 games. Before Suarez’s return on Saturday night, the team’s starting pitching ranked 18th in Major League Baseball with a team ERA of 4.77 and second to last in the National League East. With the additional injury of star prospect Andrew Painter in spring training, bullpen arm Matt Strahm was pushed to the fifth spot in the rotation – taxing not only the long relievers but the back end of the bullpen as well. Add in the underwhelming start from free-agent addition Taijuan Walker and the Phillies had an awfully good recipe for disaster.
Will the addition of Harper and Suarez help right the ship? Well, in theory, it should. At 20-20, the Phillies are 2nd in the NL East, just five games back from the Atlanta Braves. Starting with Monday night’s series opener against the San Francisco Giants, the Phillies’ next six games are against teams that have a losing record. This year, in the 20 games against teams with a losing record, the Phillies are 12-8. Against teams with a record of .500 or better, they’re 8-12. Not everything is always going to go according to plan against the best teams in baseball; however, there’s no reason that the Phillies shouldn’t beat up on teams that have a clear disadvantage in the talent and depth of their rosters.
If the Phillies are serious about getting over the .500 hump and living up to their potential, they need to do what good teams do consistently: beat the teams they’re supposed to beat and win the games they’re supposed to win.
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