I know, I couldn’t really confirm that any of the Phillies' 2016 sweeps really happened, except for the April sweep of the Nationals in Washington. The box scores have all been scrubbed from the internet, according to my one tab of research, and the MLB historian I managed to get on the phone was awfully distracted by someone’s aggressive shouting.
But they happened.
Looking back on 2016, it is far easier to remember the Phillies’ many losses. One time, they lost nine games in a row. That same time, they went 7-28 from May 15 to June 22. But six other times, the Phillies left a series having never lost a game.
And it hasn’t always been the Braves! The teams swept by the Phillies this season have a .490 winning percentage. Two of them are going to the playoffs! The other three all have losing records; two of them are in last place, and yeah, one of them is the Braves.
No. 6: September 20-21 vs. White Sox
One of the sweeps happened last night, and even though it was only two games, it still totally counts. A weeping MLB historian told me so over the phone and the Phillies Twitter account confirmed it via a picture of three of their players with very different facial expressions.
But all in all, it was far from the team’s best work. The White Sox are bad and the series was barely a series... being only two games; it was really more of a sequence. All of James Shields’ insides exploded long ago, making him far more vulnerable to an offense even as feeble as the Phillies’. Chris Sale didn’t even have a complete meltdown, despite Scott Franzke goading him on the radio broadcast both nights. This was just another couple of nights this season that the Phillies scored at least seven runs two nights in a row. Totally normal.
No. 5: August 12-14 vs. Rockies
By mid-August, most people in and around Philadelphia were locked in their refrigerators hoping to survive the rest of the summer. That there were men playing baseball, a sport that involves standing outside, where the sun is, was no longer pertinent.
But the Phillies kept pushing, even though this is typically the time of year that the Phillies of the last few years lose even their most fervent fans for a week or two. In an effort to spice things up, the Phillies held Alumni Weekend when the Rockies came to town, meaning Jim Thome's smiling mug was going to be immortalized as a bronzed face in Ashburn Alley, unveiled by a somewhat-comfortable looking Bobby Abreu. Then, an even more staggering event occurred: the Phillies won three consecutive games.
As a directionless team weakly middling out all season, the Rockies were exactly the brand of opponent the Phillies, assuming they were all jacked up about something, could take down if they wanted to. After Ryan Howard's grand slam in game one, Thome looked ready to leap out of his suite and take a few hacks himself.
Game two came alive as Maikel Franco hit a three-run shot in the first and things stayed hot when the Rockies tried to take Franco out at the knees in his next at-bat. Apparently Franco's "exuberant" home run trot set Colorado off enough that the two benches furiously emptied and everyone stood around, occasionally yelling at each other from a safe distance. Baseball Fights: Man, Do We Really Have to Get Up?
"Jimmy Paredes was a triple shy of the cycle" is a phrase used to describe game three, which really only means that Paredes remembered to put his contacts in that morning. Way to go, Jimmy! That's the level of production we expect from you on a nightly basis from now on.
No. 4: June 27-29 vs. Diamondbacks
The D-backs had come into Philly a week earlier than the Phillies' visit to Arizona and ruined African American Heritage Night, a Maikel Franco bobblehead giveaway, and Father's Appreciation Day by sweeping the Phillies through a weekend and tacking on an additional win that Monday, too, because whoops, it was a four-game series. The Snakes outscored the Phillies 22-5, so you can believe the Phillies went out to the desert in late June with revenge on their minds. Or, they just went out there to play the scheduled baseball games on their calendar, which happened to be against the Diamondbacks. Not everything is motivated by revenge, some therapists say.
This was only a three-game set anyway, so even if the Phillies were forecasting vengeance, they wouldn't be able to fully counteract the Diamondbacks' damage. No matter. They pounded Robbie Ray behind another scoreless Vince Velasquez start, followed by a pair of one-run thrillers: In one of baseball's "weak pulse" victories, Ryan Howard walked in the go-ahead run in the ninth inning of game two, and Peter Bourjos of all f****** people hit a two-run home run and scampered home on a sac fly to give the Phillies the win in the finale.
No. 3: April 29-May 1 vs. Indians
The Nationals weren’t the only playoff-bound squad the Phillies silenced for three straight nights this season, but we’ll get to that. As Washington was packing their bags and, let’s face it, probably weeping, Citizens Bank Park security was ushering them out of the facility to make room for the next contender who figured they’d just come into Philadelphia and beat everybody up.
As the young season turned a month old, the Phillies hosted Cleveland for a series of one-run victories that made them winners of six in a row. After going down 3-0 in game one - Adam Morgan’s 2016 debut - the Phillies saw their future come to life as stars of the years ahead emerged: Carlos Ruiz and David Lough summoned the heroics to cut the deficit to 3-2 and Darin Ruf bravely grounded into a double play - with no outs, allowing a run to score! This Ruf kid’s got a pretty sharp baseball mind.
This was all, however, clearing the stage for the inevitable.
Game two saw the Phillies go four games over .500 for the first time since 2011 and the finale was Vince Velasquez’s third scoreless start in his first five appearances. It was hell of a six games, putting the Phillies 15-10 and an epidemic of Wild Card fever hit the city. It was bad.
No. 2: July 4-6 vs. Braves
America’s birthday was appropriately celebrated in Philadelphia by the sound defeat of a weaker force. On the one hand, the Braves were 28-54 coming into this series; but on the other hand, they would go on to lose 12 of their next 17. Wait. What I mean is, on the one hand, the Braves weren’t very good, but on the other, the Phillies beat them. Whatever. Look, this happened.
Donned in their tomato-red day game/patriotic holiday/just feeling passionate today alternates in game three, the Phillies crackled with American-ness. Maikel Franco hit a home run - he hit one in every game of this series - and Freddy Galvis ruined Atlanta’s attempt at salvaging the series with a two-run home run in the eighth inning. At this point, it was only Freddy’s eighth home run ("Mired in a slump" Tom McCarthy said the shortstop was at the time). He has since more than doubled that total.
The sweep gave the Phillies a 5-1 home stand and also featured a stellar Jeremy Hellickson start, increasing the sexy intrigue as to what a man of his talents could fetch on the frantic July trade market.
No. 1: April 26-28 vs. Nationals
Entering this series, the Nationals were 14-5, ready to sit on the NL East like a fat kid on an ant hill.
"Well, tough beans, fatty," said the Phillies. By the time dust cleared, the Phillies were only 1.5 games out of first place and at 12-10, gloriously over .500. Andres Blanco punched a hole in Max Scherzer in game one; Jeremy Hellickson’s strike zone had the Nats whining after game two, a 3-0 shut-out ("Some of the guys were complaining about some of the calls... I don't want to say it was us because you don't want to discredit what [Hellickson] did tonight," Dusty Baker said); and in game three, Aaron Nola ran some successful tests with a new curve ball while Cameron Rupp clattered a bases-loaded double off Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth inning of a 0-0 tie.
During Rupp’s double, Franco was sauntering from second to third, not aware that Freddy Galvis was already on third, forcing Galvis to scurry home. The Nationals failed to realize any of this, which may have been the one time all season that a Phillies base running gaffe didn’t end in someone jogging off the field in shame. Good job, everybody!
Also, we were once more made privy to the grace and agility of our third baseman of the future.