Everything seemed to go according to plan yesterday afternoon as the Philadelphia Phillies completed a three-game sweep of the lowly Miami Marlins. Cole Hamels pitched a strong seven innings and the offense provided enough of a cushion in the later innings to assure him an elusive second win fueled by a Ryan Howard triple and a Domonic Brown home run. The extra breathing room also allowed the back-end of the bullpen's main guns to get an extra day of rest as the Phillies won by a score of 6-1.
With the win the Phillies are finally back at .500 in the standings as they now embark on a road trip to Milwaukee. A four game set with the Brewers begins tonight in Miller Park where the Brew Crew are just 13-19. The Brewers are scuffling along this season, with a record of 22-36 overall having them sunk in the bottom of the NL Central and 15.5 games behind the division-leading St. Louis Cardinals. Meanwhile, the Phillies have quietly moved in to second place in the NL East, holding just a half game lead on the Washington Nationals, who just sent Stephen Strasburg to a disabled list that already includes Bryce Harper, Wilson Ramos and Danny Espinosa. The time for the Phillies to prove they have turned a corner is now.
Honestly, I have my doubts that the last three or four games have proven much of anything yet. Winning two against the Boston Red Sox was great but following that up with a series loss to the Brewers was downright pitiful. I will give the Phillies credit for bouncing back and sweeping the Marlins, but nobody this season should be praised for beating Miami. That team down in Miami is a disgrace to baseball and tickets should be discounted for any remaining Marlins games.
This ten-game road trip, and the next 13 games overall, will be critical. The Phillies open a ten-game road trip with four games in Milwaukee followed by three in Minnesota against the AL Central's Twins and then three games out in Colorado. After that the Phillies return home for three games against the Nationals. If the Phillies can pull together a winning record on the road trip and return home with a series victory over Washington, then I will start to be convinced that this Phillies team will have at least a chance to be playing some truly meaningful baseball in the second half of the season. On the road trip I am looking for seven wins, with a minimum of two wins in each city. Six wins total will do little to convince me of anything, especially when four games are against second-worst team in the National League. A series victory in Milwaukee is a must, especially after the way the Brewers embarrassed the Phillies in Citizens Bank Park last weekend. Forget revenge. This is about pride.
Over the course of the next 13 games I want to see the Phillies win no fewer than nine games. Anything short of nine wins over the next 13 will fail to convince me this team is capable of establishing any momentum for a playoff push. Nine wins over the next 13 would put the Phillies at 39-34, five games over .500.
What are your expectations for this ten-game road trip?