Just 20 days ago, the Philadelphia Phillies were 7 games behind the FORMER leaders of the NL East, the New York Mets. Things were looking all but done in regards to the NL East, and the fans and media turned their attentions to the Wildcard race to see how the Phils matched up with the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers (and eventually the Colorado Rockies). But fate stepped in, the pitching stepped up, and the offense kept chugging along, and the Phils slowly pulled within spitting distance of the Mets. The blue and yellow had big troubles themselves, going 6-13 to finish out the season. Their freefall was monumental, turning into one of the worst collapses in history. Perhaps the Phillies have finally erased the ghost of 1964. The Phillies surged in September and went 13-4 during the Mets horrible drop in the standings.
So how’d the Phillies do it? Well, the bats, for one. They led the National League in runs with 886, with the second best team (the Rockies) scoring 847. They led the 2nd half in runs as well, plating 430 baserunners.
But the bats have been consistent all year, so what the hell was the secondary reason for their September surge? Their league average pitching! Yes, it’s sort of sad that this was a positive, but it is…their league average pitching helped them stay in games in the second half and in September. Their September 4.73 team ERA was right at the National League average of 4.70. This was a stark difference to the dead last league-worst pitching (4.91 ERA) in the first half of the 2007 campaign. The pickups of Kyle Lohse and JC Romero stabilized parts of the staff. Don’t forget about the impact of rookie Kyle Kendrick and the September resurgence of Tom Gordon. Adam Eaton still wasted a start every 5 games, but the Phils offense overcame him to a certain extent.
This Phillies team hit their stride at the perfect time and were able to bash their opponents with their bats and keep themselves in games with their 2nd half pitching. Now it’s on to the playoffs to see if this formula leads to a National League Championship appearance and a World Series appearance/victory. Let’s hope.