Friday night saw gorgeous weather in Philly, perfect for an outdoor meal, a few beers, and some playoff-implications baseball to send the summer off in style. Despite some monumental setbacks this season, the Phillies are still an exciting ball club when healthy. Look no further than the past two nights for evidence of that, as they destroyed the Mets in a laugher on Thursday before welcoming the Braves to Citizens Bank Park with a 6-2 victory.
The Phils find themselves in a somewhat unique situation as fall begins. They're not far from gaining a wild card spot, yet there seems to be little external postseason pressure right now. Most fans wrote the season off as lost months ago, and we've enjoyed the pleasant surprise of a climb in the standings and some great baseball to watch along the way.
This afternoon, on the first day of the season that has lately brought playoff baseball to Philly, we have a meaningful game to watch, and our team is the one no other clubhouse wants getting into the playoffs. Hard not to enjoy nine innings right about now (possibly while flipping back and forth to Temple-Penn State).
Last night's starter, Kyle Kendrick, may be the feel-good story of the Phillies' resurgent second half. If this season doesn't have a storybook ending, we can at least appreciate Kendrick's efforts lately and hope he maintains a solid portion of it next season.
At the plate, Ryan Howard has homered in three straight games, giving him 13 on the season, with 54 RBI in 66 games played. A .228 average may induce a wince, but Todd Zolecki points out that with runners in scoring position, that mark jumps to .343. It's been great to see the Big Piece in the Cadillac again.
Both he and Chase Utley homered on Friday, marking the 47th time they've gone yard in the same game, per Elias Sports Bureau. Elias also says they're the active leading duo in that regard, with 36 by Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun the next best. Again per Zolecki, they're also on the brink of milestones, with Howard a homer shy of 300 and Utley just one away from 200. Kevin Frandsen notched the first of the Phillies' four homers last night, and after Howard homered in the bottom of the fourth, Chooch followed him up with a blast of his own. Meanwhile, Kendrick induced ground ball after ground ball.
It was hard not to think about what 2012 might have been with a far healthier squad.
Even still, there is time for a postseason berth to happen, though it will take more than just continuing the winning streak. The Dodgers are just one game ahead of them, the Brewers 1.5 after winning an impressive six straight and nine of 10. Three games back from the Cardinals with 11 to play, starting with tonight's action between Roy Halladay and Mike Minor... That's still a lot of teams to leapfrog and not much time to do it, but it's more than enough reason to tune in.
Baseball's 162-game season can at times leave individual contests feeling like just another game. For the rest of this regular season, until the Philliess are eliminated or clinch a berth, every plate appearance feels more magnified. Whether they make it or not, that's enjoyable.
The way the Phils have played on many nights lately (aside from the wtf Houston series) is entertainment enough if you love the game. Go Cubs.