Death, taxes, and the Phillies collapsing in September. Those are the only true certainties in this life, and the last one is playing out before our eyes once again. After another pathetic loss to a terrible Chicago Cubs team, the Phillies are now 3-9 over their past 12 games, and hold a mere 0.5 game lead over the equally hapless Brewers for the National League’s third and final wildcard spot. To be frank, the Phillies are completely unwatchable right now.
The Phillies have been a tremendous story for most of this season. After reviled former skipper Joe Girardi ran the team into the ground over the first two months, our Canadian savior Rob Thomson stepped in to guide the Phils into a playoff spot. They hit some severe road bumps along the way, including injuries to their best pitcher and hitter, Zack Wheeler and Bryce Harper.
The Phillies battled through every adversity that came their way, and leapfrogged multiple teams into serious playoff contention. While they still have a very good shot at making the postseason, it’s becoming more and more evident each day that this team is not the borderline World Series contender they looked like over the summer, but more the lucky beneficiary of a newly expanded playoff field.
The Phillies have lost recently to good teams, like the Braves and Mets, and bad teams like the Cubs and Diamondbacks. They’ve been beaten 18-11, and also 2-1. It’s impossible to pinpoint what the Phillies weakness is because they don’t have just one weakness. Instead, every facet of their team is falling apart at the worst time. The starting rotation was absolutely brilliant only a month ago, and now Aaron Nola allows four runs to the Cubs while Kyle Gibson lobs batting practice every time out. The bullpen was one of the best in baseball in June and July, and now David Robertson has been run ragged and Seranthony Domínguez has struggled to return to form after an arm injury.
The defense was never incredible, but the Phils had shown marked improvement over the course of the year. Alec Bohm went from a complete liability to someone who was making all the plays he should, and now he looks to be back to his old statuesque ways. The same goes for Rhys Hoskins, who has cost the team multiple games this year because of his iron glove. And perhaps worst of all, the offense has completely cratered. They’ve been a streaky bunch all year, but never to this extent. They had a few stretches of waxing and waning, but they always found a way to stop skids before they got too far. But not anymore. There’s absolutely no ability to hit with runners in scoring position. Ducks on the pond used to mean scoring in bunches, but now it begets strikeouts in droves. Powerful sluggers like Harper and Schwarber have suddenly gone limp.
There’s no easy fix to the Phillies losing ways. They’re showing foundational cracks in every facet of the game, and just in time for October. On the bright side, they seem to have hit their season’s nadir, and they have just about a week to try to right the ship. On the other hand, despite the Brewers best efforts to hand the Phillies a playoff spot, the Phillies magic number still sits at seven. The postseason is far from guaranteed.
This team has given us so much to cheer for all year long, but right now, when we need them to show up the most, they’re nowhere to be found. I find myself turning the television off in the middle of games on an almost daily basis. As much as it pains me to say it, my favorite team in all of sports is completely unwatchable right now.