And on the 21st day, the Philadelphia Phillies rested.
No, I’m not trying to go all Biblical on you, but I wanted to point out that the Phillies just ended a stretch of playing 20 games in 20 days. Their record during that 20-game stretch? 16-4. That helps explain why the Phillies have had the best record in Major League Baseball for the majority of the season.
The Phillies are currently 77-40 and cruising along to their fifth straight National League East Division crown. They currently have an 8 1/2 game lead over the Atlanta Braves, who would be leading every other division in MLB except for the American League East. Their pursuit of the record for wins in a season (116) may only be derailed by manager Charlie Manuel holding back his starters in the last week (or two) of the regular season when the team has wrapped up the division and homefield advantage in the playoffs.
What makes this team so remarkable is not just their starting rotation, it’s the entire team. You get a sense of “team” from every single player on the roster. At some point in the season every single player has made a difference.
When Joe Blanton got hurt Kyle Kendrick came in and pitched well enough to keep the team in every game he started. When Roy Oswalt went on the DL with a bad back, Vance Worley stepped in and has been remarkable. An 8-1 record with a 2.85 ERA in 14 starts would make him the ace of most pitching staffs. On the Phillies, he’ll be lucky to make the postseason rotation. Of course, in a rotation with the likes of Oswalt, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, there is no shame in that.
The team has used four pitchers as their closer after injuries to, in order, Brad Lidge, Jose Contreras and Ryan Madson. They’re getting major contributions from rookies in the bullpen and that incredible starting staff is doing their part, in spite of the injuries, by eating innings so that the bullpen has thrown the least amount of innings in MLB. That’s the kind of thing that helps come playoff time.
When Chase Utley missed the first two months of the season, Wilson Valdez and Rule-5 Pick Michael Martinez filled in admirably. They are now filing in at third base due to the injury-plagued year that All-Star third baseman Placido Polanco is enduring.
When Jayson Werth left as a free agent in the offseason, the team planned to replace him with rookie Domonic Brown. Brown got hurt in Spring Training, but Ben Francisco tore the cover off the baseball in April. When Francisco cooled off, Brown came back and John Mayberry stepped in with meaningful at bats. When it became obvious that those stop-gaps wouldn’t be enough to achieve the ultimate goal of a World Series Championship, GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. traded for Hunter Pence.
All Pence has done since he arrived in Philadelphia is hit .347 with 3 home runs, 9 RBIs and 6 runs scored. The Phillies have won 11 of the 12 games that he has been on the roster, which was in the middle of that long stretch of games.
Speaking of that long stretch, it ended with a ten-game road trip to the west coast. The Phillies swept the Rockies, took three out of four from the defending Champ Giants and then finished up by sweeping the Dodgers. That 9-1 record for a road trip is the best for any Phillies team in history. Since the team has been around for over 100 years, that’s pretty impressive.
Even more impressive is what the Phillies did in the last game of that road trip. The last of 20 games in 20 days. The last game before they had to board a plane to fly across the entire country.
The Phillies got down to the Dodgers 6-0 after three innings. At that point most teams would have packed it in and just gotten ready to get on the plane. But this Phillies team is not like most teams. They are better.
By the middle of the sixth inning the Phillies overcame their biggest deficit of the season and had taken the lead. Note to the Giants: Obviously a six run lead in the middle of a game isn’t safe. The Phils would go on to win the game 9-8 behind home runs by Pence and Ryan Howard. “They played all 27 outs,” Manuel said. “That’s the way you’re supposed to play.”
And that’s the thing. This Phillies team plays the right way. Sure they have the third highest payroll in MLB, but they don’t coast on their talent like some other high-priced players. The Phillies do the little things that win games, like hustle and play great defense. As a matter of fact, the Phillies have the best fielding percentage in all of baseball. They say pitching and defense wins championships, so things are looking bright in Philly.
That idiot, Vince Young referred to the Eagles as another “Dream Team”. Close Vince, but not quite. You got the right city, but the wrong team. The real “Dream Team” plays across the street from the Eagles. They wear red and they’ll be celebrating another championship this October.