Last week, I described the Phillies as a team that would likely continue to win, but rarely with dominant victories that would be clean or fun. This was, of course, complete folly: There are no conclusions to be drawn about this team.
And right now, it has become very trendy to hit in Philadelphia — specifically, to hit home runs.
The trick here is to not talk too loudly about this development, because it’s the first time the Phillies have been able to tap into a reservoir of power that’s been sitting in the middle of their lineup since March. If the Phillies realize they’re hitting exactly the way their roster was designed to, they’ll start thinking about how they’re hitting exactly the way their roster was designed to, and we’ve seen enough talented hitters undone by mental anguish around here recently.
That said, you can’t help but smile and shake your head in the same way you might while watching a video of a dog getting a bucket pulled off its head: There you go — it doesn’t have to be that way.
The Phillies had hit 24 home runs in the less than two weeks since Aug. 1. They hit 23 in all of May.
As of Aug. 12,, their 24 home runs were the most in Major League Baseball this month. Behind them were the Cubs (21), baseball’s hottest team; the Rangers (20), who have led the AL West pretty much all year and swept the Phillies to start the season; and the Braves (18), the team that’s been untouchable atop the NL East all year. The Phillies’ team SLG for August, .537, was a single point behind Atlanta’s for the top spot in the sport. They were tied in team ISO with Texas at .258.
Nick Castellanos has homered six times this month; Kyle Schwarber and J.T. Realmuto each have three; Bryson Stott, Trea Turner, Alec Bohm, and Bryce Harper all have two.
That’s something else that’s become noticeable about this offense the past few nights — their success at the plate has come from just about everybody in the lineup in some capacity. More importantly, they’ve been relentless, continuing to score despite a lead being secured. Of course, no lead is secure, which is why you’ve got to keep scoring.
In their series finale against the Nationals, the Phillies did what we’ve seen them do all season and got flummoxed by a terrible pitcher, blowing opportunities and swinging at pitches out of the zone.
Then — and this is the key part of home runs — players started hitting them instead of just thinking about them or admiring them when the other team hits. Starting in the sixth, the Phillies started hammering the ball out of the yard: First Trea Turner, then Nick Castellanos, then J.T. Realmuto. Suddenly, a game that had been a 0-0 tie for most of the day turned into a 6-2 lead.
On Friday night, the Phils opened the last series of their current home stand against the Twins. Twins legend Jim Kaat threw out the first pitch — and proceeded to blast his team’s pitching into the stratosphere.
After the Phillies used liners and sharply hit grounders to build a 6-2 lead, once again in the sixth, they started homering again, this time getting round trippers from Bryson Stott, J.T. Realmuto, and Johan Rojas (whose first career homer came off a position player doing a Craig Kimbrel impersonation).
Home runs are like moving diagonally; a cheat code that glitches the ball over the fence.
The Phillies have been a pretty power-starved offense this year. You almost forgot how comfortable they could make a lead, because it never became a strength they could rely on this season. Their highest single-month home run total in 2023 so far was 32 back in April, which was good enough for 14th in baseball. (The Rays were one shy of 60 that month, good lord.)
There’s no telling where this goes — it’s the 2023 Phillies — but right now, it’s starting to make sense why at the trade deadline, Dave Dombrowski did little more to boost the offense than pick up a bench guy to hit against lefties. His team already has it, if they want.