A Philly State of Mind: Don’t Count Out the Philadelphia Phillies

“Let’s hear it for New York, New York, New York”. Those words are the lyrics of the 2009 hit song written by Jay-Z, Empire State of Mind. It was also the theme song to the New York Yankees run in the playoffs of 2009. Now being compared to teams like the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, the Philadelphia Phillies have torn through the National League in the past two years, capturing two NL Championships and one World Series title. The Phillies are currently in pursuit of capturing their third consecutive NL Championship and making their third consecutive World Series appearance.

Throughout the 2010 MLB season, the Phillies’ starting lineup has only played three games together. Shortstop Jimmy Rollins was injured early in the season, but made his recovery just before the All-Star break. Third baseman Placido Polanco had injuries sustained to his right knee kept him out of the lineup, but has soon returned and played exceptionally well. Now, the Phillies big-name hitters, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, are on the disabled list. In the words of Elton John, the Philadelphia Phillies are in need of some “Philadelphia Freedom” from injuries.

Times have changed, and so have the Phillies. Even though they are currently two games behind the National League East leading Atlanta Braves, they could easily take over first place in the division and be headed to their third-consecutive World Series. Fans may not have thought this a couple of weeks ago. The Phillies started the second half of the season 2-8, 7 games behind the Braves. Things have changed since then, and so have the “Fightin Phils.”

With the acquisition of Roy Oswalt at the trade deadline, the self proclaimed, “Heart Attack”, Brad Lidge, and the rest of the relief pitchers will not have as much stress resting on their shoulders. The top of the Phillies rotation now consists of three big-name pitchers all who have had outstanding careers. Roy Oswalt has a remarkable record in the second half of the previous 3 seasons (19-6, 3.00 ERA). He’s closing in on 150 career wins with a career 3.25 ERA. Staff ace Roy Halladay has a minuscule ERA of 0.75, and has 8 complete games this season already. Halladay has led the league in that category for the past 4 consecutive seasons. Cole Hamels, although fallen off the pace a bit this season, has one World Series Championship ring and was the Phillies’ 2008 World Series MVP on his resume.

Over the last 10 games, the Phillies have only lost three, and closed the gap on the NL East division race. The bats of Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez have finally come alive and they are scoring runs for the 2009 NL Champions. Meanwhile, rookie outfielder Dominic Brown has been impressive in his first couple career starts with a couple of key hits and an outstanding throw to home plate.

The question is if the Phillies can keep on this spectacular pace and take the NL east. The closing schedule has a good outlook for the Phillies as they play the sinking New York Mets 12 times over the next two months. They play the NL East last place team, the Washington Nationals, 9 times which can only help them. They also face teams such as the troubled Los Angeles Dodgers and the Florida Marlins, who always seem to give them a hard time.

The Hunt for October is creeping up on teams, and fast, and the NL East race should be an interesting one to watch. Who will come out on top? Who will reign supreme atop the NL East? Who will capture the NL East crown in 2010? The end of the baseball season travels through the streets of Philadelphia and maybe it is time for everyone to have a “Philly” state of mind.