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August 13, 2022

A far cry from May: Phillies are revitalized after early 2022 woes

The Phils have won 14 of their last 17, and right now, can go toe-to-toe with just about anyone.

The winning run was 90 feet away for the Mets in the bottom of the ninth, and with only one out, the Phillies had zero room for error. 

Take it back three months and this team probably folds. 

Either someone from the bullpens gives up a lazy single or a moonshot into the bleachers, or a routine defensive play finds a way to turn into a complete disaster.

But that isn't the Philadelphia Phillies anymore. 

On Friday night at Citi Field, Matt Vierling stood under a fly ball to left for the second out and Starling Marte, the runner at third, went for it.

Vierling stepped into the throw and delivered it on a perfect line to J.T. Realmuto at the plate. The tag was there way ahead of Marte. He never had a chance. Double play. Off to extras.

Even watching on Apple TV+, you could feel the air leave the rival ballpark. 

Bryson Stott, as the ghost runner in the 10th, reached third on a Rhys Hoskins ground out, then on an Alec Bohm sac fly to right, slid home on a throw that flew past Mets catcher Tomás Nido.

2-1, Phillies. David Robertson came on in relief and shut it down from there. 

The first of three in a crucial late-season series against the NL East leaders went to the Phils. They're 63-49, have won 14 of their last 17, are right in the thick of the NL wild card hunt, and within the span of three days, battled two of baseball's best pitchers – Miami's Sandy Alcantara on Wednesday and New York's Max Scherzer on Friday – won in spectacular fashion, and will see if they can take down a third when they get Jacob deGrom on Saturday night. 

These are the Philadelphia Phillies now. 

A club that has Alec Bohm playing with all the confidence in the world (in the field and at the plate), has Ranger Suárez able to put in seven innings of one-run ball against the NL's best, can put Bryson Stott in the leadoff role and have him go 3-for-4 against a future Hall of Famer, and has a bullpen that can actually preserve a one-run lead with the weight of the world on its shoulders. 

A club that can pile on the runs, rally from behind, or in the case of Friday night, make the most of the limited chances they get while the pitching keeps them in it. 

“It’s a playoff-type game,” interim manager Rob Thomson said after the win (via “That’s the type of atmosphere you're going to face in the playoffs, so it's good to get that experience…Every pitch, every ball put in play, the game is on the line. One mistake could cost you the game, so it's good practice.”

These are the Philadelphia Phillies now. 

A club that's gunning for October, with the postseason very much in reach after 10 long, long years away. And rather than stalling out late like they have the past few years, this version of the Phils, at an incredible 41-20 since the start of June, look like they're only just hitting their stride.

A club that right now will go toe-to-toe with anyone and play them any type of way. 

“We’ve been playing like this for a while,” Thomson said (via NBC Sports Philadelphia). “This was a playoff-type game. I love the poise we showed across the board.”

It may be too late to catch the Mets in the race for the division, but they can scare them a bit with this weekend's series and next's back at Citizens Bank Park. 

At the very least, they can make Keith Hernandez eat his words. (Do wonder if he caught Vierling's throw or Bohm's barehander)

“I feel like for the most part we are a different team right now,” Vierling said (via “We’re jelling together a lot better and we're starting to come into our own as a team; coming here, they're a really good ball club over there, so going toe to toe against them and how we're feeling right now, it's a lot of fun. It will help us down the road, too.”

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