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Fast Start Has Phillies Hopeful of Return to Playoffs

Poor starts to the season had become something of a Philadelphia Phillies tradition. In 2022, a slow start cost manager Joe Girardi his job. The team recovered to go all the way to the World Series under new manager Rob Thompson. In 2023, Thompson could not prevent another slow start, but again the Phillies rallied in the second half of the season to again make the playoffs and make a run that was cut short of another World Series by an upstart Arizona Diamondbacks nine.

Players and management were united in the goal of making 2024 a different story. All agreed that the first goal of the team was to get off to a good start, so they did not have to depend on a furious late season push to make the playoffs again.

Mission accomplished. After a sputtering 1-2 start in March against their archrival, the Atlanta Braves, the Phillies enjoyed one of their finest April’s ever, going 19-9, .703. The record bested the finest April in recent memory, 2011’s 18-8, .692, and is second in the last forty years only to the 1993 pennant winner’s April of 17-5, .773. That was a team that included current Phillies broadcasters, John Kruk, Kevin Stocker, and Larry Andersen.

Despite the hot start, the Phillies still find themselves second behind the Braves in the talented NL East Division. It is a position they are likely to stay in for the remainder of the season. The Phillies are good, the Braves are, by most estimations, the best team in the Major Leagues. For all their talent, however, the Braves have not been able to solve the Phillies in the post-season, and there is a good probability they will see each other in October again.

The strong April record for Philadelphia can be attributed, for the most part, to their starting rotation. The top three starters have all been very good, and the surprising Spencer Turnbull, filling in for an injured Taijuan Walker, has been a revelation. As I write this article Saurez, who was just named the NL’s Pitcher of the Month for April, has an ERA of 1.32, ranking second in the National League. Turnbull ranks fifth at 1.62, Wheeler is seventh at 1.91, and Nola nineteenth at 3.20. Overall, the Phillies starters ERA is second in the MLB at 2.50, behind only the Boston Red Sox at 2.03.

It is a good thing the starters have been able to carry the load, because the ERA of the Phillies’ bullpen, widely regarded as one of the best in baseball, is currently ranked 26th at 5.19. And the star-studded Phillies offense has had a sputtering start. While Trea Turner, Brandon Marsh, and especially Alec Bohm have been hot, other stars like Bryce Harper, Kyle Schwarber, and Bryson Stott have stumbled out of the gate. While the Phillies as a team are top five in the Major Leagues in batting average and home runs, they rank only twelfth in runs scored.

As the season progresses and the Phillies starters regress inevitably toward the mean, the team will need more consistent offensive production and more reliable bullpen performances to maintain their hot start.


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