July 07, 2023
The Phillies' surge through the summer reached new heights down in Tampa, where they took on the AL-best Rays and swept them.
The starting pitchers went deep into games, the bullpen battled and held the Rays' order in check, while the bats – though still spotty – were timely and opportunistic enough to rack up runs when the club really needed them.
The Phils are firing on all cylinders, having worked their way up to 47-39 entering Friday. They're fully back into the playoff picture after a bad start, playing their best baseball yet with only a three-game set left in Miami before the All-Star break, and having just passed a major litmus test as far as possible World Series contention may be concerned, but...
“Not a single guy in here needs a measuring stick,” Matt Strahm, who shut the door on Thursday's 3-1 extra-innings win in the series finale, said (via MLB.com). “We know what we’ve got. We know what we’re capable of.”
It's not all perfect, sure, but things are going well for the Phillies right now.
Here's a look at how well by the numbers...
12 – The Phillies' number of consecutive road wins, the number of consecutive wins against interleague opponents, and the number of strikeouts Aaron Nola racked up in maybe his finest start of the season so far. The Phillies are 25-23 on the road overall entering Friday, with that current streak making up a substantial gap, though with that being said, there sure is no place like away from home right now.
11 – The number of pitches José Alvarado had to throw in a pivotal two-out battle against Wander Franco in the eighth on Thursday. After fouling off three straight pitches – and six in total during the at-bat – Franco took the 11th pitch out to right and straight into the glove of Nick Castellanos for the third out. With runners at the corners and the game tied 1-1, Alvarado stayed with it and won, Franco slammed his helmet in frustration, and the game continued on, eventually needing extras.
0 – The number of runs the Phillies' bullpen surrendered to Tampa through the three-game series and the total number of runs it has allowed over the past nine games. The relievers have been lights out of late.
6 – And so has Taijuan Walker, who has won six straight decisions following his start against the Rays on Wednesday, which stood as an 8-4 Phillies victory. After a rough start to the season – much like the rest of the team – Walker's recent stretch has seen him pitch much deeper into games and exhibit far greater control. Over his last six starts, he's pitched 39 innings, struck out 40, gave up seven earned runs, but has held opposing lineups to a combined .181 batting average. The starting rotation looks like it's beginning to find solid ground again and Walker's turnaround since the beginning of June has been huge in establishing that.
6.0 – The number of innings Cristopher Sánchez has pitched in each of his last two starts, including Thursday's win in extras when he held the Rays to just four hits and a single run (a solo homer from Isaac Paredes in the fifth). The fifth day in the Phillies' rotation has been a weak spot all year, but as the All-Star break approaches, is Sanchez lining up to take charge of it in the second half?
34 - The number of games Bryce Harper has gone without a homer. The lack of power from the Phillies' MVP-level bat is a concern, for sure, but they have managed to get by for the time being, and maybe the All-Star break will give him the breather he needs to rest and find it again.
2 – The number of hits Trea Turner has had in the last two games each, including a solo homer on Wednesday that tied the game 4-4 in the fifth, then the opposite field single on Thursday that gave the Phillies an insurance run in the 11th. The $300 million shortstop's first season in Philadelphia has been underwhelming so far, and he's still only batting .261 six games into July, but there are signs of life there.
“I’m hoping that all evens out and we see who he really is," manager Rob Thomson said prior to Wednesday's game (via MLB.com) "My gut is that that’s what we’re going to see the good Trea Turner.”
22 – The number of wins the Phillies have earned since the calendar turned to June. They're 4-1 to begin July with just a weekend series left against the Marlins before the All-Star break and are 22-9 going back to June 1. Just like last season, as the weather got warmer, so did the Phils – granted those first two months getting there were extremely frustrating.
1.5 – The ground the Phillies made up in the playoff race after the series down in Tampa. On Monday, they were trailing San Francisco by a game for the third and final NL Wild Card spot. On Friday, after a three-game sweep, they took hold of it with a 0.5-game advantage.
1 – The number of teams to sweep the AL-leading Rays so far this season. Just one. Just the Phillies.
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