If you’ve followed this baseball team at all over the last decade, you know September has not been a kind month for your beloved Phils.
That was true even last year. It’s easy to forget that before the Phillies rolled through October and into the World Series, they almost didn’t even make the postseason. Incredibly, they haven’t had a winning record in September since 2017:
- 2022: 14-17
- 2021: 14-16
- 2020: 13-17
- 2019: 12-16
- 2018: 8-20
Last year’s Phillies went 18-11 in August but stumbled down the stretch, losing 10 of 13 before stabilizing and clinching the final wild card spot with two games left in the season. This year’s club went 17-10 in August, but heart-breaking losses on last month’s final day, followed by brutal defeats at the hands of the Brewers on Friday and Saturday, had Phillies fans feeling that ol’ familiar feeling:
The September Powder Blues.
On the latest episode of Hittin’ Season, we discussed these recent trends. Here are five reasons to be optimistic that, in 2023, things are different.
This club can rally
The Phillies rallied to come from behind and salvage the final game of their series against Milwaukee on Sunday, thanks to back-to-back home runs from Alec Bohm and J.T. Realmuto. They then held on for dear life after building an early 8-1 lead for a tense, 9-7 win over the Padres in San Diego Monday night.
Those were gut-check, character wins for a team that seems to specialize in that sort of thing of late.
Sizzling hot hitting
As you might have noticed, the offense is humming.
Over the last 30 days, Kyle Schwarber has hit 13 home runs, including his 40th of the season on Monday. Trea Turner has hit 12 since his standing ovation on Aug. 4, has a 15-game hitting streak and has hit a dinger in six out of his last seven games.
Bryce Harper has a 1.068 OPS over the last month, Nick Castellanos has six homers and 20 RBIs with eight doubles over that same stretch, and Alec Bohm, Bryson Stott and Brandon Marsh continue to play at a high level.
Heck, even J.T. Realmuto is starting to figure out his swing again.
Home field advantage
The Phils are 41-26 at home and possess perhaps the best home field advantage in baseball, with 14 of their last 25 games at Citizens Bank Park.
While they do have seven more games against the first-place Braves, they get to play three more vs. the Cardinals, seven vs. the Mets, three vs. the Pirates and two more vs. the Padres — that’s 15 games against teams with losing records. They also have three against the Marlins, who are barely above .500 and treading water in the wild card chase.
Gunning for the No. 1 wild card
Speaking of the wild card chase, the Phils are in a much stronger position than they were a year ago.
Baseball Reference gives the Phillies a 98.7% chance of reaching the postseason as a wild card team, thanks to a 5 1⁄2 game lead in the standings and a 2 1⁄2 game lead over the Cubs for the No. 1 spot. Securing that top wild card will be huge as it means the Phillies would play the entire three-game playoff round at Citizens Bank Park.
On Sept. 5 of last year, the Phils had a similar record (73-61) but were tied with the Padres for the second wild card and just two up on Milwaukee, sitting 10 ½ games behind the Braves. The No. 1 seed was out of reach.
In all those previous Septembers, the Phillies were trying to accomplish something they’d fallen short of for 10 years — a postseason berth.
This year, the roster should have more confidence knowing they can get over the hump, and appear to be playing with the confidence of a team that knows what it’s capable of.
Since Michael Lorenzen’s no-hitter, the Phillies have trailed at some point in 20 of their last 22 games, and yet are 13-9 over that same stretch, with 11 comeback wins.
Of course, there are reasons for pessimism. The pitching staff is leaking a bit of oil, with the starting rotation’s 4.59 ERA over the last two weeks a concern (it ranks 14th in MLB), and the bullpen with a 4.98 ERA over the last week (8th highest in baseball).
These may be momentary glitches in the Matrix, but September is not the right time for your best relievers to forget how to throw strikes or for your starters to get bashed around like a pinata.
Phillies fans need a more relaxing September than we’ve had in years past and, hopefully, that’s what we’re going to get.
Save the drama for October.