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HS 201: The Phillies are for real

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On Episode 201 of “Hittin’ Season,” host John Stolnis is joined by NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Corey Seidman to recap the Dodgers series and look ahead to the MLB Trade Deadline.

Los Angeles Dodgers v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images

Coming into the series finale on Wednesday against the Phillies, the Los Angeles Dodgers had gone 40-19 since May 26. They had just acquired Manny Machado at the trade deadline and looked for all the world like the one National League team that was going to steamroll through the last two months of the season, taking no prisoners along the way.

And that might still happen. But during their three-game stay in Philadelphia, the Phillies proved one thing.

They proved that they can play with anybody.

Rhys Hoskins said it best after the game, “I think we’re past the narrative of, ‘Are we a good team?’ I think to be able to take two of three from the Dodgers, take two of three from the Padres as well, I think we’re here to stay and it’s exciting. We’ve got a lot of good contributions from everybody this whole series. A complete team series win.” (quote courtesy of NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Corey Seidman)

After the game, Dave Roberts put it simiply, saying, “They beat us. We got beat this series. I don’t think we laid down. They got the big hits when they needed to. That’s the difference in this series.” (quote courtesy of MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick).

The Phils took two of three from the much-heralded Dodgers and could have swept the series. After splitting a four-game series in Los Angeles last month, the Phils won the season series 4-3.

In each game this week, the Phillies fell behind in the first inning thanks to a collection of defensive miscues and pitchers’ mistakes, only to come back and take the lead in each game. In the first two games of the series, they overcame three-run deficits in the middle innings.

This team never believes it’s out of a game, even against an opponent as good as the Los Angeles Dodgers. Perhaps that comes from so many of these young players coming up through the minors together, winning at every level, believing that they are actually this good. Whatever the reason, it’s July 26, the Phillies are in first place in the NL East by 1 12 games over the Atlanta Braves, with a SEVEN game lead over the Washington Nationals and the second-best record in the National League.

This team does not have a single player hitting over .280. The position player with the highest fWAR on the team is Cesar Hernandez, at 2.1, which ranks 31st in the National League. The only players who rank in the top-10 in anything offensively is Rhys Hoskins, who is 7th with 65 RBI, and Hernandez, Hoskins and Carlos Santana, who are all in the top-10 in walk percentage.

They are a sum of their parts. Hoskins and Odubel Herrera are dangerous when they’re hot, and can carry the team. Hernandez and Santana are solid, if not spectacular players, who do well at the top of the lineup and with runners in scoring position, respectively. The bottom of the lineup is filled with players who have lackluster statistics — Nick Williams, Jorge Alfaro, Scott Kingery, et al. — but come up with big hits on a semi-regular basis.

They have a true ace in Aaron Nola, something every good team needs. Jake Arrieta, Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta and Zach Eflin have been good more often than they’ve been bad, and the bullpen has the best ERA of any relief corps in July, at 2.44 (the Dodgers are next closest at 2.74, and no other ‘pen as an ERA under 3.00 this month).

One thing they are not is a fluke. They’ve won too many series against good opponents to be considered a fluke and are 10-2-1 in their last 13 series overall.

They have holes. They are far from perfect. But this week, the Phillies showed they have the ability to overcome big deficits against one of the best teams in baseball, and take two of three from a team many believe will be the NL’s World Series representative.

They are not going away. We are going to have meaningful baseball for the rest of the summer.

Sit back and enjoy the ride.