Why does one study history? One reason to review the past is to know the possibilities of the future.
In the past two years, the Philadelphia Phillies have been successful in the second half of the season—especially in September. With most of the core players from the 2008 World Championship team returning, it is safe to feel confident that the Phillies will advance to the post-season despite the struggles from key pitchers Cole Hamels and Brad Lidge.
September has been the best month for the team in 2007 and 2008—years when the Phillies advanced to the playoffs. In their 2007 NL Wild Card-winning year, they had a .607 winning percentage in the last month of the regular season. In the following year, their September winning percentage improved to .680 and the team ended up winning the World Series.
When one reminisces about the Phillies playoff run of last season, the 2008 World Series MVP Hamels and then-undefeated closer Lidge are two names that cannot be ignored. With those two arms in the Phillies arsenal, the team was unstoppable.
This year, when those celebrated pitchers make their way to the mound, a cloud of uncertainty hovers above them.
Like the Law of Gravity taught us: what goes up must come down.
Two key players of 2008 may be struggling, but their inconsistencies won’t cause Philadelphia to struggle. Yes, Hamels and Lidge were the losing pitchers in half of the team’s losses in August, but since Aug. 11, the Phillies have posted a 2.79 ERA (50 ER, 161.1 IP)—second in the Majors.
The Phillies lead the Majors in number of home runs allowed in the ninth inning (19), number of losses after leading in the eighth innings (seven), and rank second with 60 runs allowed in the ninth.
Conversely, the Phillies lead the NL in runs (662), HR (184), RBI (637), and SLG% (.451) as they sit comfortably in first place in the NL East.
The Philadelphia Phillies are a strong team that has enough talent that when one aspect of the team is dragging, another will pick them up and carry the team to a win. The unpredictable performances from Hamels and Lidge are not enough to cause the potent Phillies to flounder.
What goes up must come down, but the Phillies aren’t showing signs of returning to sub-World Champion form as of yet.
Next up for the Phillies…Coming to town as their first challenge of September will be the NL Wild Card-leading San Francisco Giants. Philadelphia will be facing a San Francisco team that has been playing well—going 5-1 in the last seven days—and need to continue their September domination in order to cool the visitors in the three-game series.
Earlier in the season, the Giants won three games in the four-game series versus the Phillies in San Francisco. Even with their success, the Giants are aware that Philadelphia is still a dangerous team.
"They're solid. They're the World Champions," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said following their win over the Colorado Rockies on Aug. 30. "We're going to have to go there and play our best ball—we know it."
The next three games may possibly serve as an appetizer for a possible playoff matchup come October as long as both teams continue to ride the wave of success that they have been on in the second half of the season.