At the end of the first month of the season, the Philadelphia Phillies are next to last in their division, with a 13-13 record. However, things could be a lot worse. Despite being four games back from the first place Braves, they are only two games behind the Mets and Nationals, with the Nationals coming to town this weekend. It is a crucial series in this young season, and the Phillies know that, adjusting their rotation so that their three best pitchers face the Nationals. That is thanks to the flood-causing rain that hit Philadelphia yesterday and postponed the Phillies-Mets game. If it is possible for good to come out of such terrible weather, then finding good from the Phillies mediocre first month of the season should be easy.
A somewhat revitalized offense
A known problem for the Phillies the past few years has been a hot and cold offense, that is more often than not cold. However, it seems that so far this season, things could be turning around. After the first month, the Phillies rank a middling 8th in runs scored in the National League. The Phillies make up for this by being 4th in batting average and 5th in on-base percentage. The team still has some of its struggles bringing the runners it puts on base home, but are only barely in the bottom half of the NL in runs scored. An improvement at third base, and Darin Ruf returning from injury could be more than enough to help push the Phillies to the top half of the league in offense.
This increased offense is thanks in part to Chase Utley’s return to form. The second baseman looks like the player he was during the team’s World Series run, and has the highest batting average on the team at .355. Meanwhile, free agent pickup Marlon Byrd has been a success so far, leading the team in RBIs, and saving the team a few runs with some great defensive plays.
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Back of the bullpen bounces back
Alliterations do not lie, as the back of the Phillies bullpen, namely Jonathan Papelbon, have turned things around after a rough blown save in his second appearance of the season. Since then, he has pitched 10 consecutive scoreless innings, only allowing 2 walks and 5 hits during this span. This is compared to giving up 2 walks and 4 hits in his blown save alone. This improved Papelbon is one of the reasons that the Phillies have been able keep within distance of the Braves. This is the Papelbon that the Phillies signed before the 2012 season.
A strength from a weakness
Heading into the season the team’s starting rotation looked weak, with a question marks of who would pitch and where behind aces Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee. As things stand now, there is a clear picture of the rotation, and while the results have not shown yet, they will come. Hamels has made two starts since coming off of the disabled list, and will no doubt get back into the swing of things soon. Meanwhile, A.J. Burnett has shown to be a crucial signing, leading the team with a 2.15 ERA. Kyle Kendrick has pitched as expected, and Roberto Hernandez often has kept the team in games, which is all you can ask for from a fifth starter.
In the end, the first month of the season could have gone a lot worse, as there were plenty who thought that the Phillies would be one of the worst teams in the league. The team will still have to improve on their first month, and it all starts with this weekend’s crucial series against the Nationals.
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