The second half of the MLB season kicks off tonight, and there are going to be some exciting pennant races. The biggest division lead at the break is just 4.5 games, and that is in the A.L. West. Looking over the standings I see a handful of teams outside of first place that may make a charge in the second half. One team stands out – and while it kills me to say this as a Braves fan (please, Braves fans, don’t go all Mel Gibson on me) – I think the Philadelphia Phillies aren’t going away quietly. I think they are set up for a second half charge.
As it stands now the Phillies currently sit in third place in the N.L. East, 4.5 games behind the division leading Atlanta Braves. They are also just 1.5 games back of the Dodgers and Rockies in the N.L. Wild Card chase. Many expected the Phillies to once again win the N.L. East and challenge for the pennant. That expectation was amplified by the offseason acquisition by Roy Halladay. But, injuries have complicated the quest.
The two most glaring injuries belong to perennial All-Stars Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley. Rollins, who has sat at the top of the lineup for the high-flying Phillies, is the spark that has been missing for the offense. To this point Rollins has only played in 31 games, as he has been on the disabled list two separate times. Even when he has been in the lineup his effectiveness has been minimal. For proof, please refer to his .254 batting average. Chase Utley, meanwhile, was placed on the disabled list on June 29 with a torn ligament in his right thumb. He is expected to be out at least another month. But he, too, was having a bit of a down season by the standard he set for himself. Those aren’t the only Phillies who have spent time on the disabled list at some point this season. Other guys that have missed time include Placido Polanco, Carlos Ruiz, J.A. Happ, Chad Durbin, Brad Lidge, and others. Seemingly, the only guys who haven’t missed any time are Halladay and Ryan Howard.
Once the team gets fully healthy I expect them to make a run at the Braves. This team is too good not to be in contention. Believe it or not, the everyday lineup has played together only SEVEN times this entire season! This is essentially the same team, plus Halladay, that has made the World Series the past two seasons. The guys that have had down years to this point, Rollins and Utley to name a few, surely will get things going down the stretch. And the pitching staff, behind Halladay, has shown signs of life. Jamie Moyer, who has gotten a lot of editorial conversation between the writers here at The Sports Debates, quietly has nine wins. Cole Hamels is still seeking to return to his 2008 form.
The Phillies did close the first half with a sweep of the Reds. That gives the team a little bit of momentum coming into the second half. And the Phillies are due for some momentum.