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The Philadelphia Phillies Are Hot, Loose and Loving Life as One of the Best Teams in Baseball

The Philadelphia Phillies Are Hot, Loose and Loving Life as One of the Best Teams in Baseball
The Philadelphia Phillies Are Hot, Loose and Loving Life as One of the Best Teams in Baseball

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The Phillies are hot, that much is certain, with Bryce Harper and Zack Wheeler powering and pitching the team to the best record in baseball and a recent home winning streak that nearly matched the franchise record.

Well, no team has been quite as alluring to the packed crowds at Citizens Bank Park as the Phillies. Just ask them.

Brandon Marsh, the outfielder with the Rip Van Winkle whiskers, was mic’d up for an ESPN Sunday night game when he was relayed a fan question from social media by the broadcast booth: If you had to start a rock band, who would you take from the team and what’s the band name?

Marsh rattled off catcher Garrett Stubbs, slugger Kyle Schwarber and outfielder Cristian Pache as his fellow band members, then as he hustled off the field after making a catch, blurted out the name that has since launched a blossoming business of the catchphrase T-shirts.

Marsh said he has his own band shirt — which he has yet to reveal — and the Phillies have reveled this week in the attention the fictional name has stirred.

Stubbs — the backup catcher/clubhouse DJ/ Bud box hat fashionista — wants in as guitarist and backup singer. Of note, he does not play guitar or sing much more than on team karaoke nights.

“Pretty electric from Marshy,” Stubbs said.

Taking center stage as an MLB headline act, the Phillies are about as plugged in to playing good baseball as a team can be these days. Just take a look at their greatest hits — such as Harper’s three-run homer in a Monday win over San Francisco. For an encore? Harper smashed a grand slam the next night against Toronto.

“As a team, any given night, everyone’s going to do their job,” Harper said. “We’re not really worried about our numbers as individuals. We’re just going out there trying to win the games we need to. No matter who comes through at the right time or who comes through each night.”

Want consistent hitting? Third baseman Alec Bohm this week just wrapped up an 18-game hitting streak. Perfect pitching? Ranger Suárez — with a 6-0 record and 1.77 ERA — takes the mound Friday for the start of a three-game series in Miami.

“There won’t be many people, probably, at the ballpark,” manager Rob Thomson said. “You’ve got to internally create your own energy. We have a good group of people that can do that. Stubbs, Marsh, they tend to bring that every day.”

Some of the super stats tell the story.

The Phillies are 26-12 and their .684 winning percentage was tops in baseball entering Thursday’s games.

They won 11 straight home games before Wednesday’s loss to Toronto, one shy of matching the Citizens Bank Park record. They have won 11 of 13 games overall and 26 of their last 36. Harper has hit three times this season with the bases loaded — and has two grand slams. They are 22-1 when leading after six innings and 23-0 when leading after the eighth.

Philadelphia’s biggest accomplishment, though, just might be this: They are leading — yes, leading — the NL East by two games over the Atlanta Braves.

The Phillies ended each of the last two seasons among baseball’s best. Led by a homer-happy, bat-spiking offense, the Phillies lost the 2022 World Series in six games to the Houston Astros. Last season, the Phillies took a 3-2 series lead into Game 6 of the NL Championship Series before losing the final two games at home to the Arizona Diamondbacks and bowed out.

What’s not forgotten in Philly is the long climb it took for the Phillies to reach October.

They were 25-30 at the end of last May. The Phillies opened 2022 at 22-29 when they fired manager Joe Girardi and promoted Thomson. Slow starts and sizzling Junes — 18-8 last year; 19-8 in 2022 — had become the norm for the Phillies.

This year’s team does have unfinished business in the postseason. The first World Series championship since 2008 remains the ultimate goal. But a great wire-to-wire regular season and even the division title that has eluded them is on the table this year.

Anchored by Wheeler and Suárez, the Phillies boast the best rotation in baseball. One hiccup is two-time All-Star shortstop Trea Turner will miss at least six weeks with a strained left hamstring. Turner had started all 30 games this season and was hitting .343 with two homers, 10 doubles, nine RBIs and 10 stolen bases. Without him, the Phillies are still 4-1.

“I think what happened the last two years at the end is really motivating for this group,” Thomson said. “It’s not just Bryce that’s competitive. I think the entire room is competitive. They feed off of each other that way. These guys, they come to play every day. They are tough. And they have fun at the same time. It’s just a really good group, a special group.”

On the stat sheet, the Phillies are better than those ’22 and ’23 teams.

That won’t matter much come October. But if Harper again goes on a late-season tear and Wheeler keeps shutting teams down, the Phillies are primed to make another World Series run.

Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos You Should See – May 2024

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