It's June, but homestand critical for Phils
The conversation went on for a while, but much of the exchange focused on the same theme: This homestand matters about as much as a stretch of games in mid-June possibly can.
Charlie Manuel sat in the dugout before the game and talked with the media. Considering the Phillies were coming off a horrid road trip during which they limped to a 3-6 record, they would normally be excited to return to Philly. Except they haven’t played well at Citizens Bank Park – or anywhere, for that matter – all season. Entering Tuesday’s game, the Phillies had the worst home record in the National League.
They have lost in Philly and away from it. They have lost games because of defense and hitting and pitching. They have lost because of countless injuries and inferior replacement players. They have lost in almost every conceivable way.
As Manuel started talking, the media closed in around him, which seemed to be a fitting metaphor. Someone asked if there might come a time in the near future when the Phils look around and wonder if it's impossible to fix what they've broken.
“You could look at it that way,” Manuel said, “but I don’t want to think about it that way.”
Manuel said he’s a positive person and that he remains optimistic, which was interesting to hear considering that not much has gone right for the Phillies this season. Shortly after Manuel spoke, the team announced that Freddy Galvis had failed a drug test and will serve a 50-game suspension (see story)
. He was already expected to be out for a while due to a back problem, but the announcement quite literally added insult to his injury. Not long after that went down, the team disclosed that David Herndon underwent Tommy John surgery in Florida on Tuesday. Maybe you’re not all that broken up about Herndon, but it was another bad break in a series of overlapping and ongoing issues that have dogged this team all year.
But, hey, bright side: The Colorado Rockies came to town on Tuesday. You know who hasn’t been good at baseball lately? The Colorado Rockies. Before arriving in Philly, the Rockies – who were without Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez due to injuries -- had lost 10 of their last 11 games. Plus, Cole Hamels was on the mound to begin the Phillies 10-game homestand. Yeah, Hamels had an ERA over six in his previous four starts. But you look at this team and, well, who would you rather have on the mound?
Hamels had his best outing in a while, allowing six hits and two earned runs over eight innings. John Mayberry and Carlos Ruiz each had home runs. Jimmy Rollins scored three runs. The Phillies won the game, 7-2. It was a start (see Instant Replay)
If the Phillies are going to pave over the giant pothole that they created – the one that sits between them and the postseason -- now would be a good time to begin the process. It won’t be easy. Even with the extra wild card, making the playoffs will require real effort.
The Phils are 32-37. To reach 89 victories this season – which would be the team’s smallest win total since 2007 -- they’d have to go 57-36 (for a .613 winning percentage) the rest of the way. That’s ambitious. It’s possible that fewer than 89 wins could get them to the playoffs depending on how the race for that second wild card goes, but the point remains the same: they made a mess of the season early on, and cleaning it up in time for the annual October party means the scrubbing process must begin posthaste.
So: The homestand. It will not be the end of the season if they struggle during it, just as it would not be a guarantee of future success if they come out of it with a winning record. But what happens over these next nine games matters quite a bit. There is no denying that.
In the clubhouse, when he was done issuing the usual lines about plenty of baseball still being left, Hunter Pence admitted as much. He said the Phillies have made mistakes and now they “have to make things happen.”
“You’ve got to be focused,” Pence said. “You’ve got to be as focused as you can. If you mess up, you learn from it and move on.”
If that’s the case, they have learned quite a bit so far this season. As for the moving on part, it's a good idea, and they should try to get around to it. E-mail John Gonzalez at firstname.lastname@example.org