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May 24, 2024

Phillies thoughts: Job's not finished

The Phillies are off to a history-making start, but remain very aware that the end goal isn't achieved in May.

Phillies MLB
Phillies-Win-Celebration-5.24.24-MLB-Rangers.jpg Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

The Phillies celebrating yet another series win on Thursday.

The Phillies' scorching run continued on, and in the face of the argument that they hadn't beaten anyone good yet, they went and swept the defending world champion Texas Rangers to establish the best start in franchise history and the best in Major League Baseball since 2001. 

They're 37-14 through 51 games, are on a 29-6 stretch that hasn't been achieved since 1892, lead the NL East over the rival Braves by six games going into Friday, and seemingly have everything clicking for them from on the mound to at the plate. 

A three-game set with the Rockies over in Colorado is up next, and London is calling on the near horizon. All the while, Citizens Bank Park is getting packed every night again. 

Here are a few thoughts on the red-hot Phils going into the weekend...

Keep going

The Phillies had just crushed the Rangers 11-4 on Wednesday night to ensure another series win, and through the first 50 games, the best start to a season in Major League Baseball since the 116-win Seattle Mariners in 2001.

That was brought up to Rob Thomson during his postgame press conference, but the manager knows his history, which led to the following exchange:

Doesn't seem like you have to worry all that much about this team losing sight of itself. 

That '01 Mariners club, as amazing as it was, ended up losing to the Yankees in the ALCS.

These Phillies, as great as they've been, are still relatively fresh off the World Series defeat in 2022 and then last year's NLCS upset. They know what mission they're on.

"You gotta keep going," Thomson said (via NBC SportsPhiladelphia). "You just gotta keep grinding, keep pushing – all the way through."

Similar vibe:

Here comes Harper (and J.T.)

The Phillies were getting hot, but kicked it into supernova once Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto started getting more into the mix. 

Realmuto homered in back-to-back games on Wednesday and Thursday, and is holding up a hit streak that extended to 13 games with the sweep of the Rangers. He's slashing .349/.397/.524 through May and .293/.336/.491 in the 28 games since the Colorado series back in mid-April, when the Phils really started taking off. 

Harper also homered back-to-back, though in the series opener on Tuesday night and then right back at it in Wednesday night's thrashing. He started kind of quiet relative to his MVP standards, but has a May line of .352/.454/.662 through 20 games, has an OPS of 1.062 also going back to the mid-April Colorado series, and is now up to a .281/.390/.544 line for the season. 

Harper is also the only Phillie with double-digit home runs right now (12), and apparently the city's best wingman.

That the Phillies are getting contributions from seemingly everywhere – from the likes of Alec Bohm, Bryson Stott, Edmundo Sosa, and so on – has been huge and will very much continue to be. 

But the strength of their lineup is still fueled by their star power, so having Realmuto and Harper both going is great news for Philadelphia and absolutely horrible news for every opposing pitcher in Major League Baseball. 

Homegrown heroes

Speaking of Bohm and Stott though, it probably can't be overstated how important their upward trajectory has been for this team. 

Bohm drove in four more runs over the Rangers series to continue as the Phillies' ace in the hole with runners in scoring position

And Stott, even though he went a combined 1-for-11 over the three-game set, is slashing .328/.455/.517 with two home runs, a triple, three doubles, and 16 RBI since the calendar flipped to May to rebound from an uneven start to the year. 

Bohm is in his fourth full year (not including the 2020 COVID season) and really only his third with certain job security. He's 27, has only improved from the notorious "I f---ing hate this place" moment from over two years ago, and has broken out this season as the best-hitting third baseman in the NL with a possible first-time All-Star nod on the way.

Stott is in year 3, is 26, transitioned from shortstop to second base and back with Trea Turner out for a bit, and has similarly improved with each season to the point where he is an irreplaceable regular in the lineup. 

They both are, really, and both are notably homegrown talents (albeit as college draft picks). 

Much of the Phillies' current core (Harper, Realmuto, and Trea Turner) was brought in from the outside and at a high price tag, but conventional wisdom, across any sport, dictates that successful teams have to be built from within. 

And here are the Phillies' two biggest internal pieces leading the charge on this torrid run. 

Power Ranger

Shifting to another homegrown talent on the mound, what Ranger Suárez is doing has been nothing short of ridiculous. 

The 28-year old lefty is 9-0 through only 10 starts and with a bafflingly minuscule 1.36 ERA and 0.7888 WHIP. 

He carved straight through the Rangers' order on Tuesday night with 10 strikeouts in seven innings of one-run ball, and only looks more and more like a serious NL Cy Young candidate with each passing start – in historic fashion, too. 

He's the Phillies' third starter. That's insane. 

He also has the new greatest fan group (shoutout to the Phandemic Krew in 301):

Bench bosses

Trea Turner is working his way back from a hamstring strain but is still going to be out for a bit longer. 

Granted, with the way Edmundo Sosa has been swinging the bat filling in, he's been making the wait completely painless. 

Likewise, Brandon Marsh was shielded from another lefty starter in Texas' Andrew Heaney in the series finale on Thursday, which is a continued concern, but with Cristian Pache able to step in and come up with a triple, maybe it isn't as big of a problem as initially thought – or at least in terms of the club's bigger picture. 

Can't forget that Whit Merrifield is there, too. 

Bench depth is important. The Phillies have a lot of it. And it's plugging a lot of holes for them with little issue as they continue to move along. 

What to complain about now?

This is sarcasm, but as a means to point out that Nick Castellanos walked twice in Wednesday night's win and then homered on Thursday. 

As the Phillies really started picking up steam, the free-swinging Castellanos was notably still struggling at the plate. And look, his numbers still aren't particularly great – .227/.306/.387 with 3 homers, 3 doubles, 7 walks, and 19 strikeouts in 20 games for May so far – but he did just have an eight-game hit streak going a couple of weeks ago and is managing to get runs across somehow even if it doesn't necessarily look pretty.

The Phillies are playing great baseball right now, and while it isn't perfect, the job is consistently getting done, one way or another.

Are there things to criticize? Yeah, that's just the nature of pro sports. There's always something that can be better, but with the way things have been going, it just all feels nitpicky – the "they didn't beat anybody" argument included.

Don't miss the forest for the trees. Enjoy good baseball. 

One more...

Walking through the upper-deck terrace in right during Wednesday night's game, I saw a kid in the Yard down below absolutely crush a Wiffle ball over the fence and into Hartranft. 

Shoutout to that kid, too. 

Everyone's raking down at the Bank. 

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