Phillies News

Brewers series not a pop quiz for Phillies but the club certainly aced it

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It wasn’t a pop quiz, exactly. After all, the three-game series against the Brewers that concluded early Wednesday evening at Citizens Bank Park had been inked into the official Major League Baseball schedule months before even spring training camps opened.

It only began to come into focus when the games started to count. The Phillies jetted out to one of the best starts in franchise history. The rest of the standings began to form around them. With each passing day it became clearer that Milwaukee represented the sternest test the World-Series-or-Bust Phillies had faced since the defending division champion Braves visited for Opening Weekend.

Those two series bookended an uninterrupted two-month stretch of Reds, Nationals, Cardinals, Pirates, Rockies, White Sox, Padres, Angels, Giants, Blue Jays, Marlins, Mets and Rangers. It takes nothing away from what the Phillies accomplished to point out that not one of those teams woke up Wednesday morning with a winning record. San Diego, at 32-32, was the pick of the litter.

Think of it more as a 20,000 mile tune-up than a final exam.

No matter what you call it, the Philllies aced it. They completed the sweep with a 2-0 win Wednesday, holding what had been a potent Brewers lineup to a total of just two runs in the three games.

Now, the Phillies didn’t exactly scald, either. The margins of victory in the first two games were 3-1 and 2-1 in extra innings. But that’s probably more a result of a low grade chill that settled over the top of the order, starting with the Colorado-San Francisco trip that started May 24, than anything particular the Brewers pitchers were doing.

Before that they were averaging 5.4 runs per game. In 12 games since: 3.6.

The Phils still have a +104 run differential, second best in baseball. After Tuesday night’s win, manager Rob Thomson suggested that playing taut games against a contending team created a playoff atmosphere that could only be helpful in the long run. He picked up the theme Wednesday.

“They’re a good club,” he said. “I think winning close games like this, where we don’t score runs and win games, I think that’s huge. I really do.”

As the traveling party gathered itself for the long day’s journey into night that was scheduled to deposit them at their London hotel around 10 a.m. British Summer Time on Thursday, they had played nine more games at CBP than on the road.

There are seven teams besides the Phillies that opened for business Wednesday with winning percentages of .580 or better.

They still haven’t played any of the first-place teams in the American League (Yankees, Guardians, Mariners) or the second-place Orioles or Royals. They haven’t played the Dodgers, have three more series against the Braves and a rematch in Milwaukee in September.

The real gauntlet could be the 12-game stretch between July 26 and August 7 when they host Cleveland and the Yankees, then fly West to play the Mariners and Dodgers.

Add it all up and it comes to six down, 34 to go against the teams that, on paper at least, will be the best measuring sticks they’ll face before the postseason.

But, hey, it’s like former Phillies manager Charlie Manuel always used to say. “If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best."

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