It’s August 7th, and with 15 disabled-list stints, an inconsistent offense, and without any semblance of a bullpen, the Phillies are just one game behind the Atlanta Braves for the NL East lead.
Baseball is a strange game.
Although, if their recent play is any indication, the adjective “strange” may be an understatement.
In the last 2 1/2 weeks or so where all-stars Chase Utley, Shane Victorino, and Ryan Howard have been out of action for the good majority of the time, the Phillies are 13-2 in their last 15 games and have successfully creeped back into the pennant race.
Tell me how that makes sense.
Now, I didn’t have much doubt that Phillies would be back in the hunt at this point of the season, but the way the players on the field are fueling this sudden rennisance with three superstars on the DL is what will make the last 55 games of the regular season all that more special.
That is if the Phillies make the postseason of course.
Here are three guys that are helping to make that ultimate goal seem possible with their elevated play.
C Carlos Ruiz
A streaky hitter by trait, “Chooch” is absolutely tearing the cover off the ball right now. By that, I mean he’s raised his batting average 35 points in the last 11 games. While he doesn’t have that many overall at-bats because of an injury that kept him out of action almost a month, that’s still an astonishing jump when you think about it. In addition to that, Ruiz leads the team in hitting with runners in scoring position, is the Phillies second-leading hitter overall (.302 BA is second to Placido Polanco) in terms of average, and is hitting at a scorching hot .454 clip (20-for-44) in his last 10 games. He’s also hit three of his five HR’s this season during that stretch for good measure.
OF Raul Ibanez
For all those who thought the 38-year old was washed up at the end up June when he was hitting a season-low .227, it’s time for you to go crawl into a corner. Actually, I’ll come join you. To prove all the doubters like myself wrong, all Ibanez has done in the past five weeks is raise his average an impressive 47 points (to a season-high .274), and solidified his status as an integral part to the middle of the order. Recently, he’s been even more impressive. During his present 14-game hitting streak (a season high), Ibanez is hitting .431 (22-51), with 3 HR and 13 RBI’s. Coincidentally, the Phillies are 12-2 during that stretch.
P Kyle Kendrick
Can’t believe I am actually casting Kendrick in this positive of a light, but since his short demotion last month to Triple-A Lehigh Valley he’s been downright phenomenal. As the much-maligned member of the rotation by default (Jamie Moyer’s injury), Kendrick has gone 2-0 in his last three starts, with just 4 ER given up in 19.1 IP, a figure that good for a sub 2.00 ERA. He’s the fifth starter for crying out loud. You can’t expect much better from Kendrick than that.
Before this post about “unsung heroes” of the Phillies most recent play is over and done with, you can’t talk about guys making outstanding contributions without mentioning Placido Polanco. His gold-glove and all-star pedigree makes him impossible to be unsung, but his worth to the lineup, with or without the injured players who are sidelined, needs to be noted. I was a huge proponent of keeping Pedro Feliz in the fold instead of any other FA third basemen during the off-season, but Polanco’s .321 BA, stout defense at both 2nd and 3rd base, leadership capabilities, and recent hot-hitting (has hit safely in 14 of his last 16 games with .400+ BA during that span) has made me rethink my initial stance.