When you win 14 of 18 games just to reach sea level you know you've been swimming upstream. Yet, the Phillies have put on quite a surge to project themselves, albeit tentatively at best, back into the second Wild Card race.
The lords of MLB decided last off-season to expand the playoff system by adding a second Wild Card team in each league. More teams, more fan interest, more money. Of course there is also the possibility of a slightly longer season extending into November, but why quibble about small matters like playing outdoors in Detroit or Chicago in the same month Thanksgiving falls?
The Phils have roared back to even on the strength of Kyle Kendrick's sudden discovery he's been bulldog all along and just didn't know it. Then, too, there has been the emergence of Erik Kratz., a longtime minor leaguer who finally got a chance in the Show and made the most of it, offensively and defensively.
John Mayberry has also had a big hand in the surge. So have a bunch of youngsters in the bullpen, all of whom spent most of the season in the minor leagues.
Cliff Lee is winning again. Roy Halladay has pitched moderately well. Cole Hamels has been, well, Cole Hamels. Kendrick has been sensational. The fifth spot, previously inhabited by Kendrick, has been manned by minor league pitcher of the year Tyler Cloyd. Jonathan Papelbon has been doing his best imitation of the Orioles' old closer, Full pack Stanhouse, whose propensity to work himself into trouble forced his manager Earl Weaver to smoke a pack of cigarettes in one half inning.
Chooch is back, catching and, of course, hitting. Chase Utley seems to have found his stroke. Jimmy is hitting home runs and occasionally running out popups. Ryan Howard is...well...Ryan Howard, that is to say, striking out at prodigious rates, flailing at balls low and away, and occasionally hitting mistakes. Kevin Frandsen has gone down with an injury so Michael Martinez, who only recently was making a serious run at a sub .100 batting average, is hitting a little, raising his average just below the Mendoza line.
So the Phils, given up for dead at the trade deadline, have risen to give their fans [false] hope of an extension to the post-season run of five seasons.
Just don't bet the ranch on their making it.