The Philadelphia Phillies just completed arguably their best three-game series of the 2012 season by sweeping the NL East-leading Washington Nationals by scores of 4-2, 4-2, and 4-1. Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee won back-to-back starts for the first time all year, and the Phillies are now comfortably in third place in their division, although they still trail the Atlanta Braves by 11.5 games and the Nationals by 16.5 games.
What This Means: Call me crazy but there’s still a slim chance the Phillies can make the playoffs. Hear me out on this one: The Phillies have won seven of their last nine and hitting their groove. They’re still just 61-67, which puts them six games under .500 and 9.5 back of the defending world champion St. Louis Cardinals in the race for the final NL wild card spot. The Phillies have an easy schedule coming up though – they play the New York Mets for three games, and 13 straight in September against sub-.500 teams. Meanwhile, the Cardinals play seven straight against teams over .500, which could the Phillies some more room if the Cardinals drop at least five of those contests. It would be an incredibly difficult journey but the talent and the experience is there on this year’s Phillies, and I can’t help but remember the 2007 season when they overcame a ridiculous late-season deficit.
Grading the Offense: Jimmy Rollins hit leadoff for all three games and went 5-for-10 with a home run, two walks, three runs scored, and five RBIs, giving the Phillies the kind of production they hoped for when they re-signed him to a three-year deal in the offseason. Kevin Frandsen hit .375 (3-for-8) and John Mayberry, Jr. went 4-for-11 (.364) with a home run, two runs scored, and three RBIs. The team only averaged four runs and a little over seven hits per contest, but fortunately, the pitching stood strong. Grade: C+
Grading the Pitching: The Phillies allowed just five runs all series, taking advantage of stellar pitching performances from Kyle Kendrick, Halladay, and Lee in succession. Kendrick twirled 6.2 strong innings and then gave way to pretty much every member of the bullpen, as the Phillies used all seven relievers (while giving up two or fewer runs) in a nine-inning game for the first time in franchise history. Halladay was masterful on Saturday – seven innings, two earned runs, six strikeouts to one walk – and Lee was just as good on Sunday, throwing seven innings, allowing one earned run. That’s a 2.18 ERA from the starters and 14 strikeouts to just three walks. The bullpen was remarkable, as the relievers combined to pitch 6.1 scoreless innings, allowing just three hits and one walk while striking out 13 batters. That’s about as dominating of a series as the bullpen has had under Charlie Manuel, and the most pleasing part was Antonio Bastardo, the inconsistent lefty who K’d all three batters he faced. Grade: A+
What’s Next: The Phillies have a day off before hosting the Mets in a three-game series from Tuesday night through Thursday night. The Phillies will throw Vance Worley (6-9, 4.06 ERA) against Chris Young (3-7, 4.33 ERA), followed by Cole Hamels (14-6, 2.99 ERA) against Matt Harvey (2-3, 2.75 ERA), and concluded with Kendrick (7-9, 4.12 ERA) vs. Jonathan Niese (10-7, 3.51 ERA).