Nothing is certain but death, taxes and a strong mark after the break.
Some people never learn. When Chase Utley got whacked, I expected the Phillies, the team I’ve chronicled for seven years – five on Beerleaguer – to steadily fall out of contention until September; and that was before Jamie Moyer, Ryan Howard and Shane Victorino fell to injury. All they’ve done is pull together yet again for a 19-11 mark since the break, 18-5 if you take away the 1-6 road abomination that kicked off the second half. They’re tied with the Twins for the best record in baseball since July 22, most of it coming without their All-Star first baseman, second baseman and center fielder.
The more things change (widespread injuries, the acquisition of Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt, the comings and goings of others like Cliff Lee, Brett Myers, J.A. Happ,), the more things stay the same (2007: 62-55 record after 117 games, - 3.0 behind the division lead; 2008: 64- 53, +2.0; 2009: 68 - 49, +5.5; 2010: 66-51, -2.0). Really, the biggest difference has been the emergence of Atlanta in taking away the Phillies’ ability to methodically march over the National League East; a 5.5-game advantage has been reduced to a two-game deficit, but Atlanta's lead has been steadily shrinking. The Phillies haven’t been the division front-runner since May 30, but they've pulled into a virtual dead-heat with the Giants for the Wild Card lead.
Speaking of the Giants and Braves, these are the only National League teams of note against whom the Phillies have played poorly; 5-7 against Atlanta and 1-2 against the Giants, which should be 0-3 if Bruce Bochey hadn’t pulled Tim Lincecum. They see Atlanta twice more in September/October. Aside from them, and San Diego at the tail-end of the homestand, the Phils will be given a full plate of teams like the Mets and Marlins with nothing to play for the rest of the way.
Other notes: The Phillies have crept up the list of league leaders in runs scored with 552, which is fourth in the NL and just 22 behind the Reds for first. In most other categories (SB, HRs, AVG, SLG, OBP) they’re average or slightly above. That’s how you could describe the pitching, too. Besides walks and related stats like WHIP, the Phillies in the middle in most categories, including ERA (3.93).