In the dog days of summer, everyone contributes to a winning team. In game one this weekend, backup catcher Garrett Stubbs hit a clutch, game-tying double past Gold Glove third baseman Nolan Arenado. On Saturday, Brandon Marsh and Nick Castellanos drove in half of the team’s 12 runs. In the series finale, rookie Johan Rojas notched three hits, and the struggling Aaron Nola wowed fans with his best start of 2023—a seven-inning, one-hit shutout to complete a sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals, the reigning National League Central champions.
Whether it’s guys like Castellanos atop a star-studded lineup or the backup catcher with just 85 at-bats, everyone must pitch in if playing in October is the goal.
For the Philadelphia Phillies, October is not the goal. November is. They have the talent, and they have the chemistry; everyone knew that coming into the season, but things did not click immediately for the Phillies. In June, however, the Phils went on a run thanks to an incredible few weeks from the starting rotation. About a month later, the Phillies’ offense chimed in. Now, there’s no looking back.
Since June 3, the Phillies have a 47-26 record. In that span, the Phillies have hit 104 home runs and have a team OBP of .335. They have become more patient, more disciplined, and more situational. They’re no longer swinging for the fences, but the ball is flying out anyway.
Nick Castellanos’ home run on Saturday was the Phillies’ 47th of August, breaking a franchise record for most home runs as a team in a calendar month. On Sunday, Kyle Schwarber sent the first pitch he saw into the stands in right-center field, marking home run number 49 for the month.
If you asked baseball fans in June if they would have thought the Phillies would be 14 games over .500 and in sole possession of the first Wild Card spot, most would have laughed. Why? On June 2, the Phillies were 25-32, seven games under .500.
That day, when the Phillies lost by a run despite erasing a six-run deficit earlier in the game, Bryce Harper commented on the Phillies’ performance simply but accurately: “We have to be better.”
Zack Wheeler, who had his worst start of the season that day, allowed seven runs before being pulled in the fourth inning. “I put us down in a big hole and guys never quit,” Wheeler said. “[We] got some big hits and guys stayed locked in. That’s what good teams do, and I know we are a good team. We just [have] been playing a little inconsistent. It starts with the starting pitching. [We’ve] got to keep the runs off the board and keep momentum on our side.”
Maybe, Wheeler had a crystal ball. We’ll never know, of course, but he was right. The Phillies went on to win 13 of their next 15 games from June 3 to 18. In that span, they held opponents to just 3.33 runs per game.
“I’ve said the word ‘resilient’ about this club over and over for the last two years,” manager Rob Thomson said after the Phillies battled through a 12-inning win in Oakland on June 17. “And that’s exactly what they are. They just stay after it. They have a lot of fun and want to win.”
Teleporting back to June and reflecting upon a disappointing start to the season does not change what happened, but putting the season into perspective is valuable in and of itself. The Phillies made another improbable comeback, going from a bottom-feeder in the National League to a team that will be feared in the postseason. In the past, other teams have done this, so what makes it so special? The only thing more improbable than one miraculous, in-season turnaround is, well, doing so two years in a row, and that—barring a September collapse—is exactly what the Phillies have done.
Before Saturday’s game, the Phillies’ players met at home plate to compete in a golf competition to determine the drafting order for the team fantasy football league. The guys gathered around as Rhys Hoskins measured the distance between each player’s ball and the temporary target placed in center field. Bryson Stott earned the first overall pick. Alec Bohm bat-flipped his golf club at home plate.
Needless to say, this is not something you would see a losing team do—the vibes, once again, are immaculate, and the resiliency from Thomson’s ball club is in full swing.