After their three-game sweep of the Colorado Rockies, an ugly series played in some of the most ungodly heat ever foisted upon the earth, some words began echoing quietly by some in the internet-o-sphere.
"Wild card." "Playoffs."
The words, so delicate, so sensitive, float in the summer breeze like dandelion puffs. If you whisper them too loudly, the wind will whip them away, never to bee seen again.
"Wild card." Playoffs."
Poof! They’re gone.
One only needs to look at the NL wild card standings to see why those words are suddenly being hushed among Phillies fans.
Yes, you see them. They’re looking right at you. Those pesky Philadelphia Phillies, winners of four in a row, technically in the wild card conversation, are 6.5 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals for that final playoff spot.
It certainly helped that they gained three games on the Rockies this week. And hey, guess who is coming to town this week for a pair of three-game sets?
The Los Angeles Dodgers, the NL wild card leader, and the St. Louis Cardinals, holders of the second wild card.
WILD CARD FEVER, EVERYBODY! CATCH IT!
Sure, if the Phillies continue their winning streak and sweep both the Dodgers and Cardinals, they’ll suddenly be in pretty good shape. They will have won 10 games in a row, all against teams ahead of them in the wild card standings.
Man, that would be awesome!
Of course, the hard part is winning six straight games against teams much, much better than your Phillies.
The Phillies are still seven games under .500. It’s ludicrous to even talk about the playoffs until a team has reached the break-even point, so this is obviously a conversation that is more for giggles than it is serious.
But when you’re in the middle of your fifth-straight losing season, you’ll look for anything to get you interested in August baseball.
Just remember this. The Phils do not have Aaron Nola or Zach Eflin for the rest of the season. Vince Velasquez is likely to be shut down, or at least severely curtailed in September. Jake Thompson might not pitch a lot in the season’s final month, either.
In other words, you could be looking at a September rotation of Jerad Eickhoff, David Buchanan, Adam Morgan, Phil Klein and some combination of Alec Asher/Ben Lively/Nick Pivetta.
And while the offense has been buzzing in August...
...it has been a wildly inconsistent group. Sure, they may get Nick Williams, Andrew Knapp, Roman Quinn and perhaps a couple other bench bats to help out when the rosters expand next month, but don’t expect to see J.P. Crawford or the bash brothers in Reading.
In order to win 85 games, which is likely the bare minimum required to win the NL wild card, the Phils would have to go 29-14, a winning percentage of .674.
But sure, I understand why people are at least glancing at the wild card standings. It’s certainly better than counting down a 100-loss season, and it gives fans a reason to stay interested in the team.
It’s also proof that, even though the talent level on the Phils isn’t anything great, all the talk of tanking at the start the season was misguided and wrong.
So while it’s extremely premature to talk seriously about the Phillies and the wild card, it is nice to see the team winning some games here and there and getting back into the summer sports conversation in town.
Every little bit of promotion helps, no matter how unrealistic it might be.