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5 takeaways from the first half of the Phillies season

5 important takeaways from the first 81-games of the Phillies' 2024 season.

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The baseball season is overwhelming. Like one of those come-ons at a Texas panhandle steak joint: Finish the 72-ounce T-bone in one sitting and you get it free. It’s just too much. That’s why the 162 games are generally consumed in smaller, more digestible portions. By the series. By the week. By the month.

The Phillies reached the mathematical midpoint of their schedule – not to be confused with the more common usage, which signifies everything after the All-Star break – by imploding in the late innings on the way to a 7-5 loss to the last-place Marlins before another sellout crowd Thursday night at Citizens Bank Park.

That, too, is a significant enough serving to require more than a couple Big Gulps to get down. But it’s a convenient roadside rest stop to pause and consider the lessons learned from what’s transpired to this point and how it informs what may unfurl before the commish presents that coveted piece of metal in late October or early November.

Here are five takeaways:

1. Despite Thursday’s dud, the Phillies are a really good team. They’ve won in the morning, afternoon and evening. They’ve won in five different time zones. They’ve won wearing their classic red pinstripes, their road grays, blue throwbacks and their black futuristic City Connect ensembles.

But they’ve really won at home. They’re 31-13 (.705) at CBP. They’re 22-15 (.595) everywhere else.

They currently have the best record in baseball. The overall Major League standings are what to keep an eye on the rest of the way. Notwithstanding their inexplicable inability to win one game in two home chances against the Diamondbacks in the NLCS last year, homefield advantage throughout is the best leg-up they can get if they hope to capture their third world championship in franchise history.

2. That’s why those upcoming games against the Guardians and Yankees loom so large.

In fact, the Phillies are probably tired of hearing about how soft their schedule has been to this point, but that doesn’t change the fact that it has been. Yes, they can only play whoever shows up in the opposite dugout and they’ve taken care of business.

But this is also true. They’ve played only four teams who would be still be playing if the playoffs opened today. And that includes the Red Sox who are definitely on the bubble.

Beginning a week from Friday they play 28 of their next 50 against teams that would qualify (if you include the Royals, another bubble team at the moment). That would be the Braves, Dodgers, Twins, Guardians, Yankees, Mariners, Dodgers (again), Braves (again), Royals and Braves (yet again).

That includes a gauntlet of 12 straight from July 26-Aug 7 that consists of Cleveland and Yanks at The Bank, followed by games at Seattle and Los Angeles.

3. They haven’t wrapped up anything yet, including the National League East. Yes, they’re 8 games ahead of the Braves with 81 to play. They’re prohibitive favorites to end Atlanta’s streak of division titles at six. It would be stunning and cataclysmic if they didn’t.

But baseball history is replete with stunning cataclysms. Has everybody already forgotten that the Phillies were seven behind the Mets with just 17 games left in 2007 before catching and surpassing them? Does anybody have a pair of Phillies 1964 World Series tickets?

Also, if you weren’t keeping track, that’s 10 more against Atlanta, six of them on the road.

4. Manager Rob Thomson has consistently said that the only thing he wishes for is good health for his roster. Putting Spencer Turnbull on the IR before the game was one thing. Seeing Bryce Harper come up limping after grounding in to the final out after Kyle Schwarber had to leave an inning earlier with left groin tightness was a stark reminder of how quickly injuries can change the calculus.

This is a club that has weathered losing shortstop Trea Turner and catcher J.T. Realmuto for significant chunks. But there’s a tipping point, even for the deepest rosters.

5. What the Phillies have accomplished so far is impressive. But it’s also built almost entirely on winning 29 of 35 (.829) from April 15 through May 23. Before that they were 8-8. Since then they’re 16-14 (.533).

No team can maintain the sort of sizzling pace the Phillies set for those six weeks in the middle. And injuries to Trea Turner and J.T. Realmuto have to have taken a toll.

But to go deep into the postseason they’ll need to be better than they’ve been recently. The good news is, with reasonably good health, they’ve shown they’re capable of that.

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