August 24, 2023
A frustrating loss from a comeback ultimately fumbled dampened what was otherwise a major series win for the Phillies.
They took two of three from the visiting San Francisco Giants, and in doing so, gained some crucial space in the running for the top spot in the NL Wild Card race, holding a 2.5-game lead over the Cubs and Reds (in second and third, respectively) entering Thursday with a 69-58 overall record.
Important too is that they've been in every game of late, even if they end up losing. They piled it on Monday night, pulled off the comeback on Tuesday, and almost had it again on Wednesday before letting it slip away in extras.
But the Phils are finding ways and can never truly be counted out.
That's the makeup of a playoff-worthy team, with perhaps an unheralded name (at least nationally) helping to hold it all together.
Here's what they're saying about the Phils...
In a lineup flooded with star power, Bryson Stott has been the Phillies' most reliable bat all season long.
When they were cold, he was hitting. When they were hot, he was hitting. Orchestrating comebacks or piling on? There he was hitting, or at the very least, working pitch-consuming plate battles that make his at-bats absolute nightmares for opposing pitchers.
And this is all in only his second year as a full-time major leaguer.
It's impressive stuff from the 24-year old and former first-round pick, and indispensable – though maybe under the radar – production for a team in postseason contention.
Wrote former baseball exec Jim Bowden in a review of every playoff-contending club's most underrated player:
A first-round pick in the 2019 draft out of UNLV, Bryson Stott quickly moved through the Phillies farm system and became a big-league starter in just three years. Last season as a rookie, he rebounded from a slow start to finish with a .234/.295/.358 slash line with 10 home runs and 12 steals while playing adequately at shortstop. In the offseason, the Phillies wrote Trea Turner a check for $300 million and told Stott he was moving to second base. Stott embraced the new full-time position and got to work with infield coach Bobby Dickerson. In addition, he worked with hitting coach Kevin Long to improve his offensive game.
The results have been impressive. Stott has slashed .297/.344/.441 with 27 doubles and 12 home runs while stealing 24 bases in 26 attempts and playing above-average defense at second base. He might not have made the All-Star team this year but he’s certainly played like one, producing 4.2 WAR. His competitiveness, grit and passion are contagious, too. [The Athletic, $]
Staying with The Athletic and off the heels of Trea Turner's walk-off against the Giants Tuesday night, Matt Gelb called back to last summer and a situation Jean Segura faced as the 2022 Phils made their fated playoff push.
In late-game situations, when the Phillies needed to climb out of a hole, the club started noticing that opponents favored walking whoever was in front of Segura in the order to deal with him instead.
His teammates wanted him to take offense to that, they wanted him to step up to the plate fuming about it, and they wanted the pitcher on the mound and the manager in the other dugout to regret it.
And they did, as the Phillies' epic run to the postseason and beyond last summer and into the fall became painted by imagery of epic bat flips and flexes from Segura as he trotted to first, often after making contact on pitches that next to nobody had any business hitting.
But Segura was mad and wanted to make them pay.
A year later, and after months of struggling from the pressure to live up to a massive $300 million contract, it's Trea Turner's turn.
Brandon Marsh, who started the game on the bench but smacked a single to center against Doval, sprinted for second base on the second pitch Schwarber saw. He stole the bag. It was so loud that Gabe Kapler, the Giants manager, had to shout a few times to alert the home-plate umpire. He wanted to intentionally walk Schwarber.
“When Marsh got that hit and everyone was on their feet the rest of the inning, that’s the thought that went through my head,” Trea Turner said after the 4-3 win. “This is what I saw last year on TV.”
So, maybe Turner couldn’t hear Schwarber. He probably didn’t know the joke from 2022. But Schwarber yelled at him anyway.
“They walked me to get to you!” Schwarber screamed.
Three minutes later, a teammate dumped a bucket of water on Turner, and Schwarber shoved him.
“They walked me to get to you!” he said.
Schwarber shoved him again. They both laughed. [The Athletic, $]
After uncharacteristically missing it for the better part of the season, Bryce Harper seems to have rediscovered his power stroke with three homers in each of the three games this past week against the Giants.
And entering the home stretch of the season, when every passing game only matters that much more, that's a huge revelation for the Phils to have, even with some injury concerns starting to linger in the background.
Bryce Harper might be banged up, but he is hitting like an MVP again.
It might be the most important thing to take from the Phillies’ 8-6 loss to the Giants in 10 innings on Wednesday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park. Harper ripped a game-tying three-run home run off the right-field foul pole in the ninth. It was his third homer in his past three games and his fifth in his past seven. Harper is batting .345 (20-for-58) with five doubles, seven homers, 15 RBIs and a 1.228 OPS in his past 16 contests.
“Just getting pitches on the plate to swing at,” Harper said. “Not missing them, trying not to chase the pitches out of the zone, taking chances when I can. But just continue to try to square up baseballs. Like I said about a month ago, I’m not worried about the homers or anything like that. I’m just trying to square up baseballs as much as possible. When I’m doing that, we’ve got a really good chance to go out there and win games.” [MLB.com]
Because Harper's reaction to his inside-the-parker on Monday night was all kinds of smooth.
And confidence is the mark of any good team, and these Phillies, through all the highs and often frustrating lows, definitely have it in spades.
Follow Nick on Twitter: @itssnick
Like us on Facebook: PhillyVoice Sports