Once again, the Phillies won last night, sweeping the Nationals and setting themselves apart from the unwatchable teams of the recent past.
Last time the Phillies were 2 games over .500 this "late" in a season? Oct. 1, 2012 (at 81-79). Been a while.— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) April 29, 2016
...let us take a journey even further back in time than May 4, 2014; the last time the Phillies were one game over .500 before Wednesday night.This time, we shall venture even deeper into history, and visit October 1, 2012 - the last night the Phillies were two games over .500.
The year was 2012, and went people weren't Snapchatting their Hunger Games terrariums, they were wondering if the Phillies were actually going to win the NL East again. Despite being picked across the board, they would not. This was evident by the team's mere ten victories from May 29-July 13.
By the time the trade deadline rolled around, the Phillies decided it was time to start trading beloved players, because victory is fueled by sadness. Using that principe, Shane Victorino, Hunter Pence, and to a lesser extent, Joe Blanton, were all sent elsewhere in exchange for what turned out to be no players that I can remember offhand.
Juan Pierre hit .307, Ryan Howard hit .219, and yet their OPS's were only .003 points different (.721 vs. .718). Roy Halladay showed abrupt, gut-melting decline, Cliff Lee was scuffling with himself, failing to throw even a single complete game like some kind of freak, and instead of coming up with a third thing, I'm going to start listing players' names: Ty Wigginton, Phillippe Aumont, Michael Schwimer, Josh Lindblom, Hector Luna, Laynce Nix, CHAD QUALLS.
Anyway, I do the recap of a whole season we can all sort of remember pretty well because by October, people were too busy designing Minecraft and Carly Rae Jespen emojis to care that the Phillies weren't making the playoffs for the first time in six years. When you head down to a regular season game near the end of a long-eliminated team's season - and I mean the last series the team is going to play, it's like being at the beach in winter. Sure, it still exists, but why are we even doing this? To remind ourselves that this place was once raucous and alive? To take in the shuttered businesses and bundled people, hoping only that the days pass quickly enough to allow for their survival in the coming months?
Only each individual member of the reported 35,387-fan crowd could answer that question. And about 32,000 of them weren't even there. Because not only was it the third-to-last game of am 80-79 team's year, it was also a Kyle Kendrick start featuring Kevin Frandsen leading off.
Just as they did the last time they crawled one game over .500, the Phillies played the Nationals on the first day of October, 2012. Even though Washington was sporting 96 wins and a playoff spot, they still marched Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper, Adam LaRoche, and Ian Desmond out there because they weren't aware of the twisted baseball hex their self-involved #Natitude had drawn to them. They also sent John Lannan out to the mound to, I guess, hit as many Phillies batters as possible.
But, despite my misgivings even now, with many years since the game's completion, Kendrick came out and somehow limited the Nationals to no runs. Harper doubled and drew a walk, but nobody could get him in. Washington went 0-for-8 with RISP, while the Phillies, for some reason, were sort of hitting with the timeliness of a team that was not aware of what month it was. Frandsen and Domonic Brown each had multi-hit nights, and darin Ruf hit a triple.
It remains the only triple of his career. I cannot imagine there will be others.
Speaking of that triple, it knocked in both of the Phillies runs and was the only moment in the game to do so. The rest of the affair was ground ball outs and, at one point, the Phillies striking out swinging in seven at-bats in a row. But Justin De Fratus, Jeremy Horst, and Aumont all managed to hold the in all likelihood half-speed Nationals to zero earned runs, five hits, and only two walks.
That was it! The Phillies were 81-79, putting themselves only six games out of the second Wild Card spot with two to play. What was it Tug McGraw said? "Ya Gotta Believe!"
"Ten million years from now, when then sun burns out and the Earth is just a frozen iceball hurtling through space, nobody's going to care whether or not I got this guy out."