The Philadelphia Phillies have been buried in last place for a long time. Phillies fans like myself didn't see much of a way out of it, especially since the NL East looked a lot stronger than it used to be. The Washington Nationals, Atlanta Braves, New York Mets and Miami Marlins all looked like potential contenders - but luckily for Philadelphia, New York and Miami have finally decided to come to earth.
The Phillies are starting to win again at about the same time that the Marlins and Mets are tanking. Miami has been falling apart for a while, yet New York is now coming to pieces right on cue as well. As such, the Phillies are not only merely a half-game away from getting out of last place, they are just three games back from catching the Mets for third place.
Being in third is certainly better than being in last, since the Phillies have to start jumping over a lot of teams anyway. It seems like only a matter of time until Philadelphia gets over Miami and New York, especially if they all keep playing like they have in the last week.
While the Phillies have won four games in a row, the Marlins are 3-7 in their last 10 games, have already traded Hanley Ramirez and may sell off a few more stars before long. New stars, a new manager and a new stadium hasn't stopped the Marlins from slumping off, trading players and barely drawing a crowd after all, and the Phillies are now poised to reap the benefits.
The Mets have taken longer to start their customary tank job, however. Yet the important thing is that it has happened, as even R.A. Dickey has lost a game lately. It took someone who had never started a major league game to finally deliver a win on July 26, as Matt Harvey had 11 strikeouts over the Arizona Diamondbacks in his big league debut. But although this snapped the Mets' six-game losing streak, they remain three games under .500 after having a winning record most of the season.
Now that the Phillies are getting healthier and are starting to pull out victories - and no longer have to worry about re-signing Cole Hamels - they might be ready to get out of last place soon. But although they may be the "best of the rest" in the NL East, they aren't really that much closer to catching the Nationals or Braves for playoff spots.
The Phillies can at least start catching up to the Braves by beating them in a three-game series this weekend in Atlanta. That could help Philadelphia leap over Miami, at least - yet overtaking the next several teams in the playoff standings will take much more work.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident who has followed the Phillies since he was eight years old.
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