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May 27, 2018

The Phillies critical 10-game road swing could be telling

Phillies Aaron Altherr
0527_Maikel_Franco_USAT Eric Hartline/USA Today Sports

The Phillies will head out west with a short memory after a loss Sunday at home.

Aaron Altherr remembered. It’s not like the Phillies’ outfielder was trying to, though. Altherr knows what last April was like, when the Phillies began a 7-game trip that took them from Los Angeles through Chicago that basically ended the Phils’ season in early May before it got a chance to really take off after a 1-6 trip.

The Phillies were 11-9 entering the road trip—and looking better than expected.

This time, they are better than anyone thought, sitting at 29-21, and one of the biggest early surprises in Major League Baseball.

This time, the Phillies are getting ready to embark on a crucial 10-game road trip that could define their season and have a telling effect as to what this team is. It starts with a four-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday through Thursday, then it’s a three-game weekend series in San Francisco, topped off by three games against the Chicago Cubs, closing out the trip on Thursday, June 7—10 games in 11 days.

The Dodgers and Giants have underachieved so far. The Cubs find themselves tied for third in what appears a stacked National League Central Division, with division-leading Milwaukee, followed by St. Louis and Pittsburgh.

The Phillies certainly don’t need the same disastrous road trip that occurred last year, when they lost three 1-run games, two of the walk-off variety—including the forgettable Hector Neris’ implosion, when he served up back-to-back-to-back homers in the ninth in the second game against the Dodgers.

“Obviously, we’re playing up against pretty good competition, so it’s obviously going to tell whether we can hang with those guys or not,” Altherr said. “I think we definitely can. We’ve had a pretty tough schedule ever since we played the Cardinals. We’ve held our own so far, so I don’t see why we can’t keep doing that.

“It doesn’t matter who we play, we think we can win every game, so it doesn’t matter. That [road trip] was the end of April last year, and hopefully, there will be a better turnout this time. I think we will. I don’t see why we wouldn’t. We have a good team and we believe in ourselves here. So I don’t see why we couldn’t come out of this road trip with a winning record.”

What’s going to have to be addressed is the defense. The Phils have committed four errors in their last five games, and those miscues will kill the Phils if this ugly trend continues out on the West Coast.

“I think we’re going to go there and play like we have been all year, and it’s obviously three good teams coming up, so we’re gonna try to take it to them and win some series,” said Phils shortstop Scott Kingery, who made a nice diving stop in the eighth inning in the Phils’ 5-3 loss to Toronto on Sunday.

One player who is looking forward to the road trip is Nick Williams, whose eighth-inning, pinch-hit homer won the Phils’ second game of the series against Toronto.

“I’m excited for the road trip, and I think everyone is,” Williams said. “It’s going to be a fight and it’s going to be competitive. We’re ready for it.”


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