While they’ve reached the post-season just once, September success has been an undeniable pattern for the Phillies over the last five seasons.
One of the top story lines of 2008 is the number of individual slumps that crippled the offense at various points. Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins started slowly, Chase Utley’s production fell off in mid-June, Pat Burrell hasn’t been hitting in August and September. With only five left to play, the Phils appear to be firing on all cylinders after suffering through a long drought where it seemed like every other game was lost by scoring three runs or less. All the while, the pitching stayed strong and fans wondered when, and if, the offense would make good on their end of the deal.
It’s finally happening, and it’s no shock that the calendar reads September. Over the past five seasons, the Phils are 87-49 in September/October regular-season contests, the most wins among all National League clubs. Historically, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins step on the gas this month, and have. While some hitters like Burrell, Jayson Werth and Pedro Feliz are on the cool side, the rest of the offense is in a nice, warm groove. The team has won 10 of 11, including some timely, late-inning hits, including a pair of eighth-inning homers from Burrell and Pedro Feliz the night before. During the stretch that started with Milwaukee, they’ve been held to three runs just once, and they won that game (Saturday’s win over Florida). Generally, the offense has slowly improved since bottoming out with back-to-back shutouts against Florida and Pittsburgh on Aug. 8.
Prevailing wisdom is that the pitching has carried them. After all, they’re tied for sixth (3.91) in team ERA. But don’t discount an offense ranked seventh (773) in runs scored.