The Philadelphia Phillies used to take winning records for granted. In fact, Phillies fans like myself considered it weird and shocking if they hadn't clinched a winning season by early September. However, in this nonsensical season, it has become weird and shocking for Philadelphia to be one game over .500 as of Sept. 13 - mainly due to where it was weeks ago.
Just weeks ago, it looked more likely that the Phillies would lose 90 games than win 82. Either way, it looked impossible that Philadelphia would be anywhere close to a sixth straight postseason berth. And yet after a 3-1 win over the Miami Marlins on Sept. 12, the Phillies are at 72-71 and are within three games of the second wild card spot anyway.
The victory was a clear sign of how different things are for Philadelphia. In the past, when the Phillies trailed by 1-0 with Cliff Lee on the mound and didn't get a hit until the sixth inning, it was a recipe for disaster. But whereas Philadelphia would have been punch less and Lee would have been unlucky just months ago, there is no obstacle too great these days.
Nowadays the Phillies rally back, get big hits like Jimmy Rollins' two-run tie-breaking homer in the seventh, and preserve leads in the eighth and ninth. And nowadays, the likes of the St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates and Los Angeles Dodgers keep losing over and over for the Phillies' benefit.
After they all lost again on Sept. 12, Philadelphia is within three games of catching St. Louis for the second wild card. But the conventional wisdom was that even if the Phillies got hot, they had too many teams to jump over. Yet although they are still tied for fourth place in the second wild card race, the Phillies are only a half-game back of the Pirates and two back of the Dodgers as well.
Even if it is still too late for a playoff run, it would just be remarkable for Philadelphia to finish over .500, after all it has been through. This looked to be the worst Phillies team in almost 10 years, not just since 2006 when they last missed the playoffs. But this may well be their ninth straight winning season after all - and facing the dreadful Houston Astros in a four-game weekend series may help them get further over the top.
There were a lot of things to call the Phillies over the last few months, yet a winning team was not one of them. However, for the first time since June 3, Philadelphia has a better than average baseball team again - and is starting to wonder whether it can have a playoff team again too.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident who has followed the Phillies since he was eight years old.
Other stories from this contributor
- Sports & Recreation