Philadelphia Phillies' Johan Rojas plays during a baseball game, Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Back in July, it was clear the Phillies’s mid-season success had been because of a pivot. The team had been assembled to crush opponents into submission, but that power never surfaced, so they instead leaned on their pitching staff, which rose to the challenge for most of the summer.

Throw all that in the trash. They’ve pivoted back to form.

Trea Turner is smashing the ball. Bryce Harper is Harpering. And no one hit more home runs than the Phillies in August — not even the Phillies, at any other point in their history.

The Phils aren’t the first team to get power hungry at the plate for a couple of weeks. The Pirates were once the owners of the most-in-a-month record. Back in May 2007, all they had to hit was 43 of them — and then won fewer than 10 games in September. 

The 1987 Orioles and the 1999 Mariners both reached a single-month home run record of 58. When the Orioles did it in May, they beat a record set by the 1947 Giants and the 1964 Twins — and then lost 21 of 27 games in September. 

The Mariners had the monthly record in May 1999 on their way to the record for the fastest team to hit 100 home runs in a season (102 in their first 50 games). They didn’t win the World Series, though — didn’t even make the playoffs.

The Blue Jays hit 54 home runs in May 2010, which was the most any team had hit in a month since the Braves had hit 55 in May 2003. But again, no postseason.

The Yankees have the current single-month home run record, with 74 in 2019. The Phillies were nowhere near close to breaking that one. That said, the Yankees are nowhere near the postseason in 2023, and the Phillies are currently leading the NL wild card race. 

That’s the key difference in the Phillies’ over-performance: They’re doing it at exactly the right time. 

These are the power-hitting, Uncrustable-holding 2023 Phillies in overalls. The ones that were promised, or at least fantasized about, back in March. 

As the unofficial end of summer comes and goes, the Phillies are entering their prime. 

They absolutely hammered opposing pitching in August. You’ve seen the numbers: 59 home runs, including No. 300 for Harper’s career. Their team SLG for the month was .547, which is one of the few times they’ve managed to outpace the Braves (.523) in an offensive category all season. They had the National League’s third best team batting average (.285) and OBP (.358) — they did not outpace the Braves.

That’s critical because part of the Phillies’ prime will include seven games against Atlanta, including four in three days. 

Both teams are currently doing everything right, but the difference is the Braves have done everything right at all times, all season long. That doesn’t mean the Phillies aren’t dangerous. In fact, it means they’re more dangerous, because they’re unpredictable. 

The Braves are a work of art hanging on the wall. They’ve been studied, admired, and praised by waves of repeat visitors. They are well defined.

The Phillies are like a clown wandering through a museum. The attention they receive is usually out of sudden concern. What are they doing here? What are they about to do? What is going to happen to us? 

The team can’t look past the first half of the month to Atlanta, and they’re not. They’re just showing up for work, crushing it, and waiting for the next chance to hit dingers. They’re comfortable playing hard, playing from behind, and playing with the game on the line. At least, now they are. 

And that’s all that matters: now. It’s September. Baseball’s entering the homestretch, the Phillies are one of the only NL wild card teams rising to the challenge, and they’ve done it using a simple formula: 

Play the game. Win the game. Wait for tomorrow. 

Justin Klugh has been a Phillies fan since Mariano Duncan's Mother's Day grand slam. He is a columnist and features writer for Baseball Prospectus, and has written for The Inquirer, Baltimore Magazine,...