Philadelphia Phillies 2008: How They Got Here
Opening day has finally come, and the crowds all are joining together around the league to watch their respective favorite teams play their first game of the season—first game that actually means something. It's a day everyone in baseball loves—because of the ceremonies—and it is the first time you get to see your team in real action for the full nine innings.
It's when we get to see which teams are going to have potential, with so many question entering the regular season. Also, it is when we find out which teams are going to have their normal struggles like the Tampa Bay Rays. I mean, how could they turn that ship around down there and put together a good season?
Could the Mets rebound after that terrible collapse in '07? Well, it would seem that they want revenge, with the signing of the big named Johan Santana in free agency.
And those Phillies, even though they made the playoffs last year, they are just a bunch of your average Philly choke artists, aren't they?
It looked like it could go that way for them this season, as Ryan Howard was barely batting .100, and the team was not able to put runs behind their ace pitcher Cole Hamels.
Chase Utley was the only real star for the team in the first part of the season, as the Phils started the season 3-5, getting beat twice each by the Nationals and the Reds. At this point, a fan just has to be thinking.. "Here we go again."
Something happened though, when the Phillies got that third win on Apr. 7. A guy by the name of Brad Lidge, the newly-acquired closer from the Houston Astros, got his very first save in a Phillies uniform. Could this guy actually do some damage for this team with that devastating slider of his?
Midseason quickly snuck up on this team for some guys, as they couldn't turn their stats around. The All-Star Game of last year that hosted four Phillies players would only be seeing two Phils suit up this season, one of which was not even on the team last year.
So let's take a look at some of the Phillies' midseason stats, as even though they were struggling, they were still holding a 0.5 game lead over the Mets for the division.
Three of the Phillies' five starters were over .500, with Brett Myers and Adam Eaton struggling greatly, only being able to win three games a piece in a combined 36 starts.
Cole Hamels was only 9-6, not bad for an average pitcher, but after the year, Hamels had in the '07 campaign, this was looking to be just a subpar season for him.
Perhaps the biggest and most welcomed surprise for the Phillies in the first half was 45 year old Jamie Moyer. He was 8-6 going into the All Star break, getting all of his moving pitches to work very well against batters.
The now turned All Star closer, Brad Lidge was 20-20 at this point in the season in saves, and had only given up five runs all season.
On the batting side of things, they were a little more on the downside. The Phillies were somewhat producing runs, but the only batter hitting over .300 was the pinch-hit specialist, Greg Dobbs.
Ryan Howard was batting .234 at this point, which looked terrible to most people, but he also had 28 HRs and 84 RBI.
Chase Utley was the team's golden boy at the midway point, batting .294 with 25 HR and 69 RBI. He also had 106 hits on the season already.
Looking towards the second half of the season, the Phillies had to fix some things obviously, but they weren't in too bad of shape at the time.
Right before the trade deadline then, the Phillies made what turned out, in the end, to be a huge trade. They were able to get innings-eating pitcher Joe Blanton from the Oakland A's. With that, they were also able to quickly demote Adam Eaton to the minors, as he was only hurting the team.
Jump now to the beginning of Sept., with just one month of the regular season to go, and on Sept. 1, the Phillies were down two games to the Mets in the division, and this time it was the Phillies who had blown a huge division lead to the Mets.
On Sept. 11, that downfall quickly turned around for the Phillies as they started a four-game series with the wild-card leading Brewers. At the time, they were four games out of the wild-card race and went on to sweep the Brewers and tie that race up. Also, the division lead was cut down to one game.
So, with just over two weeks to go now, the Phillies were right back in the race.
From there, they never really looked back and ended up going on a late-season tear to win the division by a total of three games.
In back-to-back seasons now, the Phillies have done this to the Mets—let them think they were going to win the division for a little, and then make them realize they are not even that good, and make them look foolish in the late weeks of the season.
Once these Phillies got into the playoffs, we all know what happened from there. Cole Hamels gave one of the most terrific pitching performances of all time in the playoffs, going 4-0 in five starts with 30 K's, also winning the NLCS and the World Series MVP.
Jamie Moyer, Brett Myers, and Joe Blanton all played tremendous roles in the other wins the Phillies had, with Blanton still being unbeaten since he was traded to the team.
Every single Phillies hitter played a even more important role in the wins, not always hitting with runners on, but doing something at the plate, even if it was just making the pitcher throw more pitches for an early exit.
7-0 was the Phillies record at home, the first time that was ever accomplished.
Now, let's look at Game Five.
44,000 fans screaming their heads off, as Brad Lidge finished off his perfect season to lead the Phillies to their first World Series since 1980. They did it in dramatic fashion also, winning the final game that took three days to complete.
So, even after everything they went through all season, and all they have worked for in the tough seasons of the past, Phillies fans can finally look at a television screen and see their team on the floats down Broad Street with banners everywhere saying, "HERE ARE YOUR 2008 WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS: THE PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES!!"
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