So says USA Today:
The Phillies, at 64-50, already are on the verge of matching last year’s victory total of 66 with seven weeks to spare. A year ago, they were in last place and 28 games behind the Washington Nationals. They haven’t been out of first place since July 4.
They are vying for their first playoff berth in seven years and are virtually guaranteed their first winning season since 2011.
“I knew this team was going to be good, or (have) a chance to be this good,’’ Phillies veteran starter Jake Arrieta told USA TODAY. “But nobody thought we’d be this good, this fast.
“We’ve got a chance to do something special here, and you’ve got to make guys understand this could be their only opportunity to do something special.’’
It was Arrieta and veteran reliever Tommy Hunter’s idea to turn every victory into a disco party this year, just as Arrieta did with the Chicago Cubs, winning a World Series title, a Cy Young award, and throwing two no-hitters.
He’s the guy nobody wanted five months ago, awash in the sea of free agency, waiting for someone to make the semblance of a fair offer, before signing a three-year, $75 million contract halfway through spring training. Today, he’s the leader of the finest young pitching staff in the National League, with a league-leading 59 quality starts. The quintet of Cy Young candidate Aaron Nola, Arrieta, Nick Pivetta, Vince Velasquez and Zach Eflin are yielding a 1.46 ERA in their past eight games.
“Let’s get this straight, nobody wanted me,’’ said Arrieta, who is 9-6 with a 3.11 ERA. “But now I’m back to being valued. So let’s not forget that. But I’m so glad to be a part of this.
“We hold these guys accountable, and we’re not afraid to let people know that.’’
First baseman Carlos Santana, who signed a three-year, $60 million free-agent contract in December, swears he wouldn’t have signed unless he envisioned the turnaround. Center fielder Odubel Herrera, who lost 286 games his first three years with the Phillies, noticed the cultural change in spring training. Infielder Asdrubal Cabrera (above), acquired from the New York Mets last week, saw it from the other side of the field in April. Veteran reliever Pat Neshek, who was with the Phillies last season, departed at the trade deadline, and couldn’t wait to sign back: