By Jack Ryan
Talk about exceeding low expectations!
The Phillies were rebuilding. They were young. And then they started the season 0-4, which only seemed to confirm those low expectations.
But after a 10-3 victory over the Rockies on yesterday afternoon, the Phillies enter the All-Star break at 42-48. They have won 10 of their last 13 games, putting them within striking distance of .500 and just six games behind the Marlins and Mets for the second National League Wild Card.
“Back at the start of the season, I said I’d like to play .500 and go from there,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. “I feel like even though we’re six under, we’re at that point where we’re going to find out how much we’ve improved and how good we are or if it’s just a façade. And I chose to believe it’s not. We’re going to win a lot more games in the second half than we did in the first half.”
Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp, who has been one of the team’s brightest spots this season, said .500 play the rest of the way would be a nice accomplishment. Remember, the Phillies finished last season with the worst record in baseball at 63-99.
“You don’t want to settle for mediocrity by any means,” Rupp said. “But when a team has zero expectations and you’ve got days where the oldest guy on the field is 27, 28 years old, it’s part of the learning process of playing in the big leagues. We’re doing that and showing that we all belong here. That we can play with anybody, play with the best.”
The Phillies were 24-17 on May 18, but went just 6-26 from May 20 through June 22.
“We went into that nosedive in June,” Mackanin said. “I didn’t think we’d ever win another game.”
They are 12-5 since the tailspin, which has the team encouraged entering the break. While they are looking forward to getting away for a few days, it is nothing like last year’s All-Star break when they were 29-62. Players last year quietly said how much they could not wait to get away for a few days, almost dreading their return.
“When you struggle a lot and you’re losing every day it’s hard to come to the ballpark and get up and get going,” Rupp said. “We’re winning. Winning is fun. I know we’re not .500, but we hit a stretch … where we were playing the best teams back-to-back-to-back-to-back. They did what they were supposed to do to us, but we didn’t quit.”
And now the second half is suddenly a little more interesting.