|Phanatic and home fans won’t see the team for two weeks|
We’re now past the Fourth of July, and the Philadelphia Phillies currently are holding a National League Wildcard playoff spot.
Thanks to victories in six of their last seven games, the Fightin’ Phils trail the first-place Atlanta Braves by just one game in the loss column in the NL East Division standings.
The Phillies hold a two-game edge in that loss column on the Los Angeles Dodgers for the second NL Wildcard.
Following an off-day in the schedule on Thursday, the Phils head out on an 11-game road trip during which they will visit four different ball parks, all in the Eastern time zone.
The Phillies begin with a three-game set this weekend at beautiful PNC Park against the host Pittsburgh Pirates. Losers in 11 of their last 16 games, the Bucs (40-46) are currently struggling along at 11 games off the pace and in fourth place in the NL Central Division.
Next week opens with a Monday true doubleheader at Citi Field. This begins a four-game series with the floundering host New York Mets. The NL East-rival Mets (34-49) have dropped 11 of their last 14, and struggling to stay out of the division basement.
After their trip to the Big Apple, it’s a weird single-game visit to Camden Yards for a game with the host Baltimore Orioles. The Phillies just swept the O’s (24-61) in a two-gamer at Citizens Bank Park earlier this week, and their hosts will likely still own baseball’s worst record when the Phillies arrive.
The trip finishes up with the last-place team in the NL East, the Miami Marlins. The Fish (36-52) have actually played better of late. They just wrapped up a 5-5 home stand at Marlins Park, and could jump the Mets to escape the cellar by the time the Phillies arrive in South Florida next weekend.
After that comes the four day break for the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, which will be held this year at the home of the division-rival Washington Nationals. The Phils have now moved six games up on the Nats in the standings.
The Phillies don’t play in front of the home fans at Citizens Bank park again for more than two weeks. On Friday night, July 20, the San Diego Padres will come to South Philly.
This road trip will be very telling for the 2018 version of the Phillies. The team has bucked a weak offense and generally sloppy defense to control a playoff position. The pitching staff has carried much of the load in reversing five years of losing baseball by the organization.
All of the teams that the Phillies will be facing on this trip have losing records. Their cumulative win-loss record is 74 games under the .500 mark.
However, the Phils have built their record up by winning at home, where they have an excellent 30-16 record. On the road, their 17-21 mark includes a 2-4 record in previous visits with the Mets, Marlins, and Orioles.
Prior to yesterday’s victory over Baltimore, Tom McGurk of the Cherry Hill Courier-Post quoted Phillies GM Matt Klentak on the turnaround from a year ago at this time:
“Look back to where this franchise was a year ago and compared that to where we are now, we’ve made enormous progress in a year’s time,” Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said. “From being on pace to having one of the worst seasons in franchise history a year ago to being in playoff contention. It’s a dramatic improvement.”
The spotlight is going to be squarely on Klentak while the Phillies are away. Can he swing a deal or two to help bolster the Phillies roster? The stats say that the club could really be helped by a couple of key additions.
This is a big opportunity for the 2018 Philadelphia Phillies. A successful road trip against four losing teams would have to be a winning road trip. Anything less than a 7-4 result would have to be considered at least a minor setback.