By Ben Ballier, Sports Talk Philly Staff
Many baseball fans speculated that if the Phillies could survive the gauntlet of 16 straight games vs. the Mets, Braves, and Cardinals to begin the season, then they might be just fine…
As it turned out, the Phillies went 8-7 through those first five series (one game was rained out up in Queens, NY).
Things were looking promising until they lost 2 of 3 at home versus Gabe Kapler’s San Francisco Giants. Then came another series loss versus the Rockies, and a barrage of injuries in the subsequent Cardinals series spiraled the team downward.
Ever since, it has been a battle to achieve, and stay over, a .500 record. As it stands on June 6, 2021, the Phillies are 28-30, good enough for 3rd in the NL East.
The club has struggled to capitalize in very winnable games. Failing to bury opponents when given the chance to tack on runs, losing momentum late in ballgames, and playing lackluster defense is an all-too-familiar story as of late.
The last time the Phillies won a series not against the Washington Nationals was in the first week of May versus the Brewers. One would think that the schedule must be due to lighten up.
However, it does not get any easier leading up to the All-Star Break.
The Phillies homestand concludes with the division rival Atlanta Braves coming to town in addition to a 2-game set with the 31-28 Yankees.
Then they make their way out west where they will face the defending champion Los Angeles Dodgers as well as MLB’s league leading 37-22 San Francisco Giants.
The Nationals, Mets, Reds, Marlins, Padres, Cubs, and Red Sox round things out before the All-Star Break. Four of those seven teams have win percentages over .500. Three of those seven teams are division rivals. And the Reds split a series vs. the Phillies a week ago.
In other words, there are no “gimmes” for at least another month and a half.
This is especially significant because the Phillies are in a position where they can either buy or sell at the July 31st trade deadline, depending on their chances of making the playoffs.
Another bad month and the Phillies could look to trade veterans such as Jean Segura, Didi Gregorius, Andrew McCutchen, or possibly even Rhys Hoskins to contending teams. It would likely signal the 11th straight year of playoff-less baseball in Philadelphia.
On the other hand, if the Phillies manage to stay healthy and play winning baseball in June and July, they will undoubtedly be buyers at the trade deadline.
Lighter schedules in August and September certainly bodes well for the Phillies chances of making the playoffs, but first, they must earn the trust of the front office and ownership group who will ultimately decide if the Phillies wave the white flag or push all of the chips in on a playoff run.
It is officially go time!