Philadelphia Phillies’ Record Start Fueled By ‘Chip On Our Shoulders’ (2024)

The Philadelphia Phillies are justifiably encouraged by their franchise-record start, and they believe that it has come naturally. Recent history agrees.

“I mean, it goes without saying how talented and special of a group that we have,” outfielder Nick Castellanos said before the Phillies opened a three-game series against the Colorado Rockies on Friday. “This group is more than capable.”

At the same time, the Phillies from manager Rob Thomson on down have their 38-15 record in perspective.

“As we learned last year, it is not how you start …,” Castellanos added.

The Phillies were the fifth team in the Wild Card era to win at least 36 of their first 50 games when they started 36-14 this season. Each of the previous four won 100 games, but only two won the World Series. The Phils’ start was the best since the 2001 Mariners were 38-12.

“What'd they do?” Thomson said last week, well aware that the 116-win Mariners lost to the New York Yankees in the NLCS.

Thomson also referenced his time as bench coach for the 2012 Yankees, who had a 10-game lead in the AL East on July 16 but were caught by Baltimore in early September before recovering to win the division.


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“I don’t take anything for granted,” Thomson said.

Recent success has become something to count on. Philadelphia is the only National League team to advance as far as the NLCS in each of the last two seasons, although neither brought the franchise’s first World Series title since the Ryan Howard/Chase Utley/Cole Hamels/Brad Lidge group in 2008.

The Phillies lost to Houston in six games in the 2022 World Series and fell in to Arizona in seven games in the 2023 NLCS despite holding a three games-to-two lead entering the final two games at Citizens Bank Park. That one still stings.

“It was right on our fingertips last year. We had it,” right-hander Taijuan Walker said.

“There’s definitely a chip on our shoulders. This year is a little bit different. A little bit special for us. You talk about the best start in franchise history, but if you don’t win the World Series, it’s all for nothing. We want it this year. We feel like we have the team to do it.”

While the Los Angeles Dodgers and Yankees spent big money on major roster changes in the offseason, the Phillies general manager Dave Dombrowski left well enough alone. He knew how good they had been, and could be.

The Phillies are playing basically with the same group and the same approximately $245 million payroll that has accounted for 177 regular-season victories, 19 playoff wins and a pair off postseason series wins over Atlanta in the last two years.

The Phillies’ only major move was a reset, signing right-hander Aaron Nola to a seven-year, $172 million contract after he tepidly tested the free agent waters as more of a procedural step last winter.

With Zack Wheeler, Nola and Ranger Suarez anchoring the rotation, the Phillies’ starters entered the weekend with a 2.63 ERA, the best in the majors. Their 3.11 team ERA led the NL, and their 479 strikeouts led the majors.

Wheeler, Nola, Suarez and Walker are 24-5 in 37 starts, Suarez is 9-0 with a 1.36 ERA, the best start in the majors since Juan Marichal in 1966.

“The best starting rotation I’ve ever been on,” Nola said. “You have a chance to see something pretty special every night.”

Harper’s move from DH to first base late last season remains the only major offensive adjustment for a lineup that includes productive bats Castellanos, Kyle Schwarber, J. T. Realmuto, Alec Bohm and Trea Turner.

New infielder/outfielder Whit Merrifield provides depth, a move that has given Thomson options after Turner went on the injured list in early May. Merrifield signed a one-year, $8 million contract that includes an option for 2025. Reserve infielder Edmundo Sosa is hitting .350 with three homers and 11 RBIs in the last 16 games while filling in for Turner.

“A lot of people focus on the Harper, Schwarber, Realmuto, Bohm, Castellanos, Turner, which they should,” Colorado manager Bud Black said. “Really good.

“But look at their starting pitching and their bullpen. Ranger Suarez, legit. Nola, All-Star. Wheeler, Cy Young candidate. Taijuan Walker … real arms. Real pitching staff, and All-Stars in the lineup.”

Jose Alvarado and Jeff Hoffman have combined for 13 saves, and with Matt Strahm have given the Phillies a deep bullpen that has more than compensated for the free agent loss of closer Craig Kimbrel.

“‘Dombo’ did a great job of kind of securing our depth, really understanding what we needed as a team,” Harper said. “He found value in a lot of areas. We have a great group of talent in here. Obviously, I feel like he'll round off the edges if he if he thinks he needs to.”

The Phillies could do this for awhile. Realmuto and Schwarber are the shortest-timers, and they are signed through 2025. Suarez is under control through 2025.

Running it back was the right move, players believe.

“Winning is hard … it is still extremely difficult when you have all the correct ingredients,” he said. “Sometimes just you just need time for those ingredients to kind of blossom the right way and work together and face some adversity and continue to grow and strengthen together, and that's what ownership and front office gave us the opportunity to do.”

Nola: “Chemistry is overlooked sometimes. Camaraderie is overlooked, and that’s what we have. We know what makes each other tick. We had a good season last season. For us, the job is not finished.”

Philadelphia Phillies’ Record Start Fueled By ‘Chip On Our Shoulders’ (2024)


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