As you know if you’ve been reading my blog, yesterday was the kind of game I like. High scoring, low stress. Pretty much right from the start you knew that this one would go in the win column for the fightin’ Phils.
In fact, the Phillies have continued their streak of winning series since their return from the All-Star Break. They won 2 of 3 from the Mets and 2 of 3 from the Cubs. Who won those four games? Vance Worley won 2, Kyle Kendrick and Michael Stutes each won one. Worley, Kendrick, Stutes–just who we thought would be winning games for the Phillies, right?
And what about offensively? The leader in RBI’s since the All-Star Break has 8. It’s not Howard or Utley, not Victorino or Ibanez, either. The RBI leader since the break is Michael Martinez. Now Jimmy Rollins is second with 6 (Did you see him hit home runs from both sides of the plate yesterday??), but third is John Mayberry with 5. And while Rollins leads in runs scored with 8, tied for second? Domonic Brown and Michael Martinez.
So let’s review, the Phils are 4-2 since their return from the All-Star Break and the major contributors for this early second half success are Vance Worley, Michael Stutes, Michael Martinez, Domonic Brown and John Mayberry. Oh yeah, there have been two saves as well, recorded by–you guessed it, Antonio Bastardo. None of these players, except for maybe Brown would even be in the line-up at all if it were not for injuries (that’s the ‘no pain,’ part.)
In fact, the Phillies have been decimated by injuries so far this season. Half of their starting line-up has missed significant time; they lost their number 3 and 4 starters and their top three bullpen closers. Yet, they sit atop the NL East at 61-36. That’s 25 games over .500. 25 games! And they lead the second place Braves by 4 1/2 games. Yes, we expected this team to be good but if someone had told you that they would have all of the injuries mentioned above you wouldn’t have thought they’d be this good.
No, no one wants injuries but the silver lining to losing your starters is learning something about your back-ups you might never have known. In the case of the 2011 Phillies, we learned that they have some young pitchers and position players that could be a big part of this team’s future. And not only the future, these players might play significant roles this year as well. Thanks to the unexpected playing time they are getting now, these young players will be battle tested for the stretch run and the playoffs should the Phillies get there.
In a long baseball season, every team needs to expect the unexpected; almost every winning team can point to players not in the Opening Day line-up that played big roles in their success often because of injury, and the deeper your roster, the better your chances.
So let’s hear it for the boys, and I mean boys. Worley is 23, Brown and Stutes are 24. And Martinez, Mayberry, and Bastardo are all under 30, all younger than the average age of this veteran Phillies line-up.
Thanks to bad backs and sprained thumbs, numb fingers and tired knees, the Phillies are actually a better team today than they were when they started this 2011 season. And let’s not forget, they were pretty darn good to start with.
*Special shout out to Hal for his inspiration for this morning’s post!!