The Phillies have built a surprisingly good record despite not scoring a lot of runs because their pitching has been even better than the offense has been bad. As best we know, that's not a formula for sustained success, but, as John Maynard Keynes aptly noted, "in the long run we are all dead." At the quarter-way mark through the season, the Phillies sit at 24-17, and every additional win insulates them from whatever destruction the looming regression can bring. The night may be dark and full of terrors, but the current light can lighten that darkness for a time.
The Phillies won another close, low-scoring game this afternoon against the Miami Marlins. It didn't look like that would happen to start as Jeremy Hellickson gave up two runs in the first inning on a leadoff walk to Derek Dietrich and two doubles to Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna.
It's an indictment on the ability of this Phillies team to to sustain success as the season goes on that a two-run deficit feels insurmountable, but it certainly does. And as the Phillies followed in the bottom half of the first by giving away outs on the bases--David Lough led off with a walk then got caught stealing--this really felt like another punchless loss.
But, Jeremy Hellickson was unaffected by those negative vibes. He settled in in the second inning and beyond. After a leadoff single to Chris Johnson, Hellickson retired 12 straight hitters, including a strikeout of Giancarlo Stanton and seven ground outs. He ended up lasting six innings, and only gave up those two runs he surrendered in the first. He struck out four Marlins, three of which were Giancarlo Stanton.
The Phillies helped Hellickson out with a bit of offense in the third inning. David Lough led off with a hard ground ball that went just under Justin Bour's glove at first base. Cesar Hernandez followed with his 143rd bunt single of the year and Andres Blanco knocked in the first Phillies run of the afternoon on a double to right field. The scoring didn't stop there, though. After Maikel Franco intentionally walked, Cameron Rupp hit a grounder up the middle that scored two more. Tyler Goeddel followed with a single to load the bases--Franco and Rupp aren't the fleetest of foot--but the Phillies didn't score again after a Hellickson strikeout and Peter Bourjos hit a hard line drive right at Christian Yelich.
We already talked about Hellickson's dominance from the 2nd inning on, but Marlins starter Tom Koehler also settled in after that third inning. The Phillies recorded only one hit over the next four innings--a pinch-hit single from Emmanuel Burriss in the 6th--and allowed Koehler, who lacks anything resembling good stuff and was a bit wild, to keep the Marlins in the game.
But the Phillies pitching wouldn't budge. David Hernandez came in in the 7th and recorded a strikeout, a pop-out, and a ground out to get out of the inning on eight pitches. Hector Neris was similarly effective in the 8th, getting the Marlins out in 12 pitches, working around a leadoff single to Ichiro.
In the bottom of the eighth, the Phillies made the game a little less stressful. They only recorded on hit in the inning off reliever Jose Urena, but that one hit was Tyler Goeddel's first major league home run. After looking completely lost in Spring Training and in the first month of the season, he is providing some hope that the Phillies have struck gold in the Rule 5 draft once again.
Tyler Goeddel on the season .262/.284/.369, Tyler Goeddel in May .325/.357/.500 4.8% BB% 2.4% K%— Matt Winkelman (@Matt_Winkelman) May 18, 2016
I criticized the Phillies for getting too attached to Rule 5 picks in the past--most notably, Michael Martinez--but, with Herrera last year and Goeddel this year, there is a strong case that their patience through early-season struggles has done far more good than harm.
Jeanmar Gomez came in for the save in the ninth inning and did Jeanmar Gomez things. He got the first two Marlins to ground out and, fittingly, struck out Giancarlo Stanton to end the game. It was Stanton's 4th strikeout of the afternoon, and, overall, the Phillies have held him hitless in 10 at-bats this series while striking him out nine times. It certainly helps when the opposition's best hitter is literally doing nothing offensively.
The Phillies' odd and, most importantly, incredibly fun 2016 season has reached a new peak of excitement. They now sit in first place in the NL East--tied with the Nationals--and the Chicago Cubs, a team being hailed as historically great, is the only team in baseball with more wins than the Phillies.
Ok, definitely still not saying this, but if the Phillies win today they'll be 24-17; a .585 win % that equals a 95-win pace— Paul Boyé (@paul_boye) May 18, 2016
I'm not saying the Phillies will win 95 games and make the playoffs, but I'm also not not saying that either. Their run-differential of negative-28 does not bode well for subsequent games, but the longer they continue defying the odds with their run-differential and crazy record in one-run games, the more insulation they'll have when they no longer do that. Money in the bank. In the long run we're all dead, and the Phillies may well find themselves dead quite soon. But the thing about the long run is that we don't know how long it is. The Phillies might not die soon enough for it to be a bummer. That's why this season has been and continues to be so fun.