It’s a given in baseball that every team will have a winning streak and a losing streak. The season is too long, too many games, meaning that the roulette wheel will eventually spin on to even the most hapless for a week or 10 days simply because. It used to be that you didn’t think too much about it, because the point of baseball is the whole landscape and not tight snapshots, like a work of Georges Seurat. Even the 106-win Dodgers of 2007 lost 11 in a row. The 119-loss Tigers of 2003 won four in a row and five of six once.
However, thanks to the expanded playoffs thus sullying that entire landscape even more in this destructive world of Rob Manfred, big winning streaks do matter. One good month and you can vault yourself into the conversation of a wild-card spot, while a big losing streak might not put you out of it either. Fuck, the World Series champion Braves last year played well for like six weeks and then the playoffs. Some of that was aided by a remedial class of a division. But you can always find one of those thanks to far too many owners treating the luxury tax (or any amount over $15 sent to the players) like the River Styx.
Then again, you could be the Phillies right now.
First the good stuff for the Phightin’s. Since dumping the walking TPS report Joe Girardi on his ass they’ve won 10 of 11 (the first win was under Girardi, technically). It was capped by a stirring comeback, walk-off win last night over the Marlins when they were able to survive a pitcher’s duel between the Phils’ Aaron Nola (“You can be my sugar be my Aaron Nola! Aaron No-la!”) and Miami’s Sandy Alcantara. For a team that contains the most slapstick outfield defense seen in ages that’s also equipped with a bullpen full of confused sloths, the only route to victory for the Phillies is bashing the ball into plasma. Which they’ve done, as they’ve scored 67 runs in these 10 wins.
It’s been the top of the order doing the work, with some aid from one slot at the bottom. Rhys Hoskins, Kyle Schwarber, Bryce Harper all have a wRC+ of 175 or higher in the month of June. Harper and Schwarber have combined for 10 homers in 11 June games.
And they’ve been taking turns driving in Bryson Stott, who has mostly batted eighth or ninth but has a June wRC+ of 172. He’s scored 12 runs as Philly’s top three hitters have taken turns driving him in, usually at a jogging pace, when the lineup turns over. Didi Gregorius, after returning from injury, and Odubel Herrera have also contributed greatly.
While Phillies fans may be terrified of any game going to their pen, their rotation has pitched like they are, too, of late. Nola has thrown 21 June innings in three starts and walked no one. Zach Eflin, Ranger Suarez, and Zack Wheeler have combined to provide five other starts of six innings at least, which has left minimal innings or the Phillies pen to cover. And with the lightened workload (the third-fewest relief innings in June), the Philly pen has a 3.78 ERA.
And now the problem. The streak has only gotten the Phils one game over .500, they still trail the Mets by 8.5 games (a Mets team that will soon be reloading with both Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom), and are still 3.5 games out of a wild-card spot. Philly’s streak isn’t even the best one in the division this month, as the Braves won 12 in a row to at least get close enough to the Mets to appear in the rear-view mirror, and remain 3.5 games ahead of Philadelphia.
The Phillies are chasing the Braves, Brewers, Giants, and Padres (or Dodgers depending on who is in first in the NL West that day), and none of those teams had to hit the nitrous tank to get barely into contention. And none of those teams are counting on unsustainable factors to stay there, at least not to the extent that the Phillies are.
Like what? Well, 40 percent of Bryce Harper’s fly balls aren’t going to end up as homers as they have this month (career mark of 21.5 percent). Hoskins is not going to run a .370 BABIP (career mark: .270). Same for Gregorius’s .420 mark in June. Stott has been able to cut his K-rate to 15 percent the past two weeks, but has run a percentage in the 20s throughout his minor-league career and is still chasing offspeed and breaking pitches at the same rate as he was all season which has led to a season wRC+ of 58. He’ll be seeing more of those soon. And the Phillies will still treat any batted ball at them in the field like it’s made of flubber (second worst Outs Above Average in MLB at -22, per StatCast). In June the Phillies have had a standard defense (0 Outs Above Average) but they’ll never maintain that. The rotation, which is this good, can only hold up so much.
The schedule helped, too, and in this wasteland we roam thanks to Manfred every team is going to find a pocket somewhere where all they see are the truly lost and bewildered. The Angels were in freefall when the Phillies came across them, and the Diamondbacks are evergreen bewildered. That will continue for the Phillies for a bit though, as they have five games against the Nationals later in the week. But the month ends with a Padres-Braves gauntlet, and July starts with nine games against the Cards and Blue Jays.
So it’s assuredly been fun, and more entertaining than watching the drudge that they served up under Girardi for sure. It just isn’t going to count for much unless they can win like, 30 of 35. And given how their outfield usually stares at line drives and fly balls landing between them like it was an exotic bird, that’s probably not going to happen.