Sure, it looks nice going into the All-Star break being the winners for four straight over the National League Central Division-leading Cincinnati Reds. Sure, it was dramatic, and it got the fan’s juices flowing again, believing that this 2010 Phillies team is headed in a good direction. Sure, it was nice, too, to see some of the old fight the Phillies once had in them by winning three of those four games in walk-off, no-quit fashion–especially that 6-run ninth that led to one of the walk-off wins.
Now the reality. It’s kind of stark and a little bleak.
No one wants to hear it. Or they prefer to ignore it. But the Phillies continue to have run-production problems. There’s no getting around that fact. They beat the Reds twice with 1-0 scores. That doesn’t shout the Phils are a purring offensive juggernaut. While the starting pitching looks well, the bullpen is extremely shaky, to the point that you can already imagine in mid-July Brad Lidge surrendering a two-out, three-run homer that implodes the season in a crucial late-September game.
So, no, it appears the Phillies won’t be heading to a third-straight World Series–as many, many had predicted at the start of the season. This team is simply too porous as it’s currently constructed to play deep into October again. The Phillies can get a wildcard berth, certainly, but that too will be a struggle, with the way San Diego and Colorado are playing, and you have to keep the NL Central Reds and Cardinals in consideration. Added to those headaches, the Phils still have to climb over their NL East buddies the Mets and Braves. The Mets could disappear. It won’t be anything new. We all can see that happening. But not so much Atlanta anymore, though the Braves still need to be more convincing offensively–and less reliant on walks to stir up their offense.
The Phils’ schedule helps some at the outset of the second half, with four games against the woeful Cubs after the All-Star break. Then it gets hefty with eight games against St. Louis and Colorado, two teams that were a combined 96-80 entering the All-Star break. The Rockies could become a very formidable team by season’s end. They’re getting healthy.
The Phillies don’t have Atlanta on the schedule again until September. The Braves will only get better with the return of Jason Heyward. They have better pitching than the Phils–and you have to believe more in Billy Wagner as a closer than you do Lidge at this stage, don’t you? The Phillies still don’t know the status of Chase Utley. He could be back in September, or he may not be back at all, depending on how quickly his surgically repaired thumb heals. That’s a big hole in a lineup that’s struggling to eke out runs.
The cutting reality is that the Phillies were hemorrhaging before the Cincinnati series. Don’t let last week fool you. The four-game winning streak may be nothing more than fresh paint over a rusted hull.
October is looking more and more like a return to Eaglesville this fall.