For much of the season, the Phillies and their fans have been making a slow, plodding journey that will ultimately lead them to a place called “acceptance,” where they will finally come to terms with the fact that the team's dominating run over the National League East has come to an end. For some, that journey ended in June, and for others, late July? Yet for a select few, it's not even a journey worth taking, because what if – and this is a big what if – the Phillies can get back into the race?
Admittedly, the notion that the Phillies could claw their way back into the postseason is a crazy one brought on by the fact that this team has been known for making crazy, late-season runs to make the playoffs, albeit under very different circumstances. And to be honest, I buried them a month ago, so I'm not even convinced they can dig themselves out of their own grave. But after watching them sweep the Washington Nationals this weekend, I'm willing to reconsider.
Following a sweep of the first place Nats, the Phillies found themselves just six games under .500, winners of seven of their last nine, and with the second best record in the east (15-10) since the trade deadline. Maybe that's nothing worth writing home about, but maybe it is.
In that span, they've climbed out of the basement of the division, passing both the Miami Marlins and New York Mets as they made their way to third place. And even though they have lost a game to the Nats in that span, they've gained 3.5 in the Wild Card race, which is the only race in which they have a shot at. And with 34 games to go, they have 9.5 games to make up, and an easy-ish schedule over the next few weeks, as they take on the New York Mets, the Atlanta Braves, the Cincinnati Reds, the Colorado Rockies, the Miami Marlins and the Houston Astros. Excepting the Braves and Reds, it's a pretty good schedule for the Phillies. Not to mention that the offense is back, in earnest, the rotation is healthy, and the bullpen is starting to take shape.
It's not impossible, but it's not all that likely, either. Even though the nearly ten game deficit is doable, they have to pass four teams to get there: Arizona Diamondbacks, Pittsburgh Pirates, Los Angeles Dodgers, and either the St. Louis Cardinals or the Atlanta Braves. So even if they continue to play at this pace, they'll need to rely on the kindness of other teams beating the teams in front of them. It's a tall order, to be sure.
But as long as the odds are (the website Accuscore gives them a 0% chance to make the playoffs), it will be exciting to see them try to do the near-impossible. Thanks to most of us giving up on them already, there are zero expectations as they enter the last month of the season, meaning that no matter what happens, it will be impossible for us to be disappointed with the outcome.
What say you, fans? Can the Phillies pull this off?