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With his win on Sunday, Jamie Moyer tied Roy Halladay as the Phillies’ wins leader.
You know, for a little while there, things were a little scary for Phillies fans. While the Phillies offense has slumped in seasons past, this year anemic didn’t even begin to describe it. Normally the “June Swoon” comes during interleague play. This year, the Phils were slumping entering interleague play. Within a week, the Phillies dropped from being right behind the Braves in the standings to 5.5 games out of first place.
Well, with a solid win against the Blue Jays today, the Phillies look to be back on track, averaging 7 runs a game in their last 5 games, finding themselves now only 2.5 games back and closing in on an early July showdown with the Braves. But as the great LL Cool J once said in his song “Mama Said Knock You Out,” “Don’t call it a comeback, I’ve been here for years.”
Like I said earlier, the Phillies are known for their annual “June Swoon,” a stretch of two weeks in the early summer where absolutely nothing seems to go right and watching the team is almost painful.
What made this year worse? The Phillies struggled to find a solid replacement for shortstop Jimmy Rollins while he was rehabbing his calf twice. Losing Rollins was tough, but in years past, the Phillies had Eric Bruntlett to lean on for defense and even some offensive production. It wasn’t until days before Rollins’ second return that Wilson Valdez began to turn into a solid player at the plate and in the field.
Another thing that hurt this year was the absence of the lone bat that propelled the Phils through tough times. In the past years, at least one player has remained hot for the Phillies, this year, no one seemed to stay free of the slump.
But now, all of those things that seemed to be holding the Phillies back could very well now become keys to success leading up to the All-Star Break. With Valdez now performing at a major league level, the Phillies can platoon Rollins, Valdez, and even Juan Castro until Rollins’ calf is without a doubt 100 percent. Right now, just about everyone in the lineup is hitting their stride at the same time, which (as my dad and I once considered) could continue production of at least seven runs per game, if not more. While that won’t win every game, it sure will win a bunch. On top of this, J.A. Happ is on his way back to the majors soon, which could give the Phillies’ rotation a shot in the arm (and could mean a trip to the bullpen for Joe Blanton if he doesn’t produce in more than two consecutive outings).
With all things considered, the Phillies look to be on their way to resuming their role as two-time defending NL Champions. But don’t think once that this is some sort of a comeback, the Phils have been here for years (roughly three to be exact).
-Tom Hagan ’11