The first half of the Philadelphia Phillies’ 2021 season has been nothing short of a disappointment — which is a trend for a majority of their rivals in the National League East.
A division that was projected as the toughest in baseball over the winter has been anything but that as the New York Mets — who scratched their way to seven games over .500 entering Tuesday night despite a litany of injuries — hold the top spot.
No other team is above .500.
So sat the Phillies in a tie for third ahead of Tuesday night’s matchup with the Chicago Cubs following a 13-3 beatdown at Wrigley Field on Monday night; a further indication that maybe, finally, Philadelphia is awakening from its slumber to start making a legitimate push for the division.
After all, the NL East is still wide open with the Phillies just 4.5 games out of first after Monday night’s action.
The Phillies have won six of their last 10 games as their lineup returned to full strength over the last week with the return of Didi Gregorius, who had missed two months with an elbow injury. He was just one of a number of important Phillies to miss extended time, as J.T. Realmuto, Bryce Harper and Jean Segura all dealt with knocks of their own.
“We’ve kind of been waiting for everyone to get healthy,” Phillies slugger Rhys Hoskins said (h/t NBC Sports Philadelphia). “I think you can see the depth and the length of the lineup. I’m hitting a little further down. Didi is hitting fifth. [Alec Bohm] is hitting eighth. So, there’s just length and that wears on opposing pitchers. Each one of us has the ability to pop you, too, so that adds a little bit of fear, too.”
The hope is that Hoskins and the Phillies’ offense can spark a run that would indicate to management that the team is, in fact, contenders this season; prompting a somewhat more aggressive approach ahead of MLB’s July 31 trade deadline.
That doesn’t mean a blockbuster move, but a strong stretch would make Dave Dombrowski that much more willing to go out and get the pitching help that the Phillies so desperately need.
Zack Wheeler has been the only constant in the starting rotation while the bullpen once again is one of the shakier units in the entire league.
“I think it starts with this week,” Hoskins said. “There’s a couple of weeks before the [trade] deadline. We know where we stand. We know the Mets are 4.5 [games] up and there are a couple of teams between us. But there’s been crazier things that have happened in baseball…
“We’ve got to put pressure on the front office. That’s our job as players — see if we can get on a run and make them make tough decisions. That’s all we can do.”