COMMENTARY | All right, let's have a show of hands out there. Who among you was ready to write off the Philadelphia Phillies' 2013 season after a bad loss to Pittsburgh last Thursday afternoon ended a dismal homestand?
Okay, we know it's more than a bit premature to be writing off an entire baseball season in April. There are 162 games and there are good and bad spells throughout. We've ridden the roller coaster with this team before. We know intellectually it's only a matter of time before things improve. All we needed to be was patient.
Yeah, right. The heck with patience. Last Thursday afternoon, they were done. Phillies fans booed like they were done. The Phils were 9-14 and had lost 8 of 11. They couldn't buy a clutch hit and every middle reliever who took the mound was getting lit up. The young Atlanta Braves were already seven games up on Philadelphia. Heading into a three-game weekend series in New York, there were calls to break up the Phillies and begin building for the future.
Then Kyle Kendrick pitched the game of his life on Friday night and Ryan Howard blasted a three-run homer. On Saturday, the Phillies scored nine runs and gave rookie Jonathan Pettibone his first major league win. On Sunday, Howard's pinch-hit double made up for Cole Hamels' wildness. Suddenly, the Phillies swept the Mets while the front-running Atlanta Braves got swept in Detroit.
Just that quickly, the Phillies are relevant again. As it stands with one game remaining in the month of April, the Phillies are now 12-14, just four games behind the division-leading Braves and 1½ games behind the Washington Nationals.
Okay, a 12-14 record is manageable. Had it gone the other way and they were 9-17 ... but why even think about that anymore? What recent history does tells us is the Phillies start slowly and get better as the season ages.
Depending on what happens in Cleveland on Tuesday night, the Phillies will end April at either 13-14 or 12-15. Since the 2007 season when they won the first of five National League East titles, the Phils have had one great April. That occurred in 2011 when they went 18-8 en route to a club-record 102 wins. Otherwise, it's been like this: 2007: 11-14; 2008: 15-13 (including one loss in March); 2009: 11-9; 2010: 12-10; 2012: 11-12.
In a nutshell, since 2007 this has not been much of an April team. As the weather gets warmer, so have the Phillies.
In all the Mays, Junes, Julys, Augusts and Septembers since 2007 - that's 30 months - they've had just four losing months, two of them last season. And they get stronger down the stretch. If we total up just the six Septembers including 2007, the Phillies have won 105 games and lost 62. That's a winning percentage of .629.
So maybe now we'll learn our lesson. Bad starts happen and can be overcome. The Phillies in the 2000s haven't out of the gate fast. We should just trust their fortunes will rise with the temperatures. Even at just 12-14 with one to play in this particular April, it feels a lot better, doesn't it?
And let's be thankful May begins this week.
Ted Williams lives in Emmaus, PA and is a lifetime Phillies follower. He spent 20 years in print journalism, winning state and national awards. He covered the 1980 World Series, the first championship in Phillies history.
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