The Philadelphia Phillies were at the bottom of the barrel not too long ago. In fact, Phillies fans like myself still consider them the bottom of the barrel, if only because they will miss their first postseason since 2006. Yet for all of the doom and gloom around this season, Philadelphia may not technically end up being a losing team after all.
Thanks to all these late but practically meaningless wins lately, the Phillies have climbed from last to third place in the NL East. In fact, after winning series' over the Washington Nationals, Atlanta Braves and Cincinnati Reds, they only need a few series wins over more inferior opponents to go over .500 - if that can be believed.
Philadelphia carries a 66-71 record going into a weekend matchup with the Colorado Rockies - a last place club that was just shut out twice in a row by Atlanta. If the Phillies could go a combined 7-2 against the Nationals, Braves and Reds, then taking care of business over the Rockies should be easier on paper. For that matter, it should also be easier to beat the Miami Marlins, Houston Astros and New York Mets during the rest of September.
The Phillies' next 13 games are against sub. 500 teams - and if they go 9-4 over them, they won't be below .500 anymore. Of course, going 9-4 over anyone was too tough an order until August or so. But now that things are finally picking up, there's an actual window of opportunity to salvage a winning season.
Philadelphia only has three series' left against winning teams the rest of the year, as it faces Atlanta once and takes on Washington twice. Since the Nationals may have a playoff berth locked up by the time they face the Phillies again, they would then be a lot easier to beat. Therefore, if the Phillies are close to going over .500 before their season finale series with the Nationals, things would look very promising.
Finishing 81-81 or 82-80 would hardly make up for missing the playoffs. Yet it would look a lot better than a 90 loss season, which the Phillies looked headed for weeks back. If the Philadelphia team that beat up the NL's best can do the same against the NL's worst for a while, it could further put a band-aid on this lost year.
Yet in between handling the Nationals, Braves and Reds in the last few years, the Phillies were almost swept by the Mets at home. If they can't find the same energy to beat inferior teams that they had in beating superior ones, rougher times could return.
But it would be an almost fitting way to close a season like this out. Now that there's finally something to accomplish, albeit on a small scale, it'd make sense for these Phillies to blow it anyway.
However, for all the scorn and disappointment hanging over this Philadelphia squad, it can still avoid its first losing season since 2002 after all. Should that happen, we would technically have to call the Phillies winners in 2012 - if only for a couple of days at the very end.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident who has followed the Phillies since he was eight years old.
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