As of Monday, June 3rd, the Philadelphia Phillies are technically the second-best team in all of baseball with a 41-19 record, a half-game behind the New York Yankees after Sunday night’s extra-inning loss to St. Louis.
They are 6.5 games up on their N.L. East rivals the Atlanta Braves in the divisional race and enters tonight’s game against Milwaukee with their ace Zack Wheeler on the mound.

So everything’s great, right? 

Eh, maybe not.

The Phillies’ bubble finally burst last week on their road trip out West. They started by losing two out of three to the far inferior Colorado Rockies. Unfortunate but annoying for a team playing as well as they have been. Then they lost two out of three to the more adequately matched Giants. Both series saw the team’s signature offense fall flat, their ability to hit with runners in scoring position diminish, and their pitching, both from the rotation and the bullpen, struggled. This weekend, they rebounded with a series win over the visiting Cardinals. However, those victories came with a cost. On Saturday night, starting pitcher extraordinaire Ranger Suarez took a 106.1 mph line drive to the left forearm with two outs in the bottom of the second inning. Suarez, in his calm, cool, gunslinger fashion, completed the play before exiting into the clubhouse in apparent pain. The Phillies ‘pen dominated the rest of the way and the crafty left-hander escaped without any major injury, but the extent of his injury, a left-hand contusion, is unknown. For now, Suarez is just as likely to pitch in London on Saturday as he is to miss his next three starts. Sunday’s extra-innings loss to the Cardinals brought another casualty to the team’s roster. Outfielder Brandon Marsh came up limping after he rounded second base in the bottom of the eighth inning, clutching his right hamstring and signaling immediately to the dugout for the trainer. Marsh, who was hitting .304 against right-handed pitching, left the game and presumably will miss some time. The exact prognosis of his right hamstring strain is unknown, but the feeling is all too familiar for Phillies fans. Superstar shortstop Trea Turner left May 3rd’s contest against San Francisco after injuring his hamstring and has not seen the field since. Although all news surrounding Turner’s recovery has been positive, a timetable for his return has not yet been announced. 

So here it is. For the first time all year, the Phillies are facing a little bit of adversity. This month, it comes in the form of injuries, a wonky trip across the pond, and a tougher schedule.

This is baseball; teams don’t live permanently on Cloud 9; they merely rent a house on it for a matter of weeks until they come back down to Earth. The question is, if the Phillies do fall back down, how far will they fall? 

From all reports, Ranger Suarez’s left arm will be fine in a couple of weeks, so his absence for a start or two shouldn’t be the end of the world. Brandon Marsh’s prolonged absence from left field, however, does prompt some more significant concerns about the roster. The Phillies have been fortunate that in the wake of Turner’s absence, utility man Edmundo Sosa has filled in superbly, slashing .304/.373/.576 with four triples and four home runs on the season. However, there isn’t quite a clear replacement in the outfield.The team brought up David Dahl, a 2019 All-Star who leads Lehigh Valley in hits and home runs on the season. The 30-year-old Dahl is a left-handed bat–something that could prove crucial for a number of reasons. Kody Clemmons, the seemingly obvious choice to hit from the left side, has been placed on the 10-day IL with back spasms. Clemmons, who has thrived in a utility role this season, isn’t quite as natural in the outfield as he is in the infield, however. Two bench bats, Cristian Pache and Whit Merrifield, have both struggled mightily at the plate this year. Merrifield, an $8 million free-agent acquisition, has hit just .176 with two homers across 114 plate appearances. Originally thought to be the stand-in at second base for Trea Turner–with Bryson Stott sliding to shortstop–Merrifield’s offensive shortcomings have paved the way for Sosa to see increased time at short. The outfield has been the team’s weakest unit to date. With the ongoing experiment of Johan Rojas in the center, Nick Castellanos’ struggles in right field, Marsh’s up-and-down performance in left, and the less-than-stellar performance of their two bench bats, the team’s outfield has ranked in the bottom five on the league offensively through the first 60 games.

Since the team’s been winning, the group’s poor performance hasn’t been much of a conversation.
However, if the Phillies falter, the outfield will be viewed with a far more critical eye. 


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