The Philadelphia Phillies are scorching at a perfect time, winning eight straight to hurdle over the New York Mets into first place of the National League East with 50 games to go.
Their longest win streak since 2012 was fueled by a sweep of the Mets over the weekend, punctuated by a dominant effort by Zack Wheeler, who tossed a complete-game, two-hit shutout while striking out 11 against his former team.
It was even sweeter considering the Phillies honored the late Roy Halladay, whose No. 34 was retired at Citizens Bank Park during a Sunday pregame ceremony.
“On a day that you honor one of the greatest pitchers I’ve witnessed pitch, he goes out and it was like Roy had his hand on it,” an emotional Joe Girardi said. “He gives a Roy Halladay appearance today.”
Wheeler’s heroics extended the Phillies’ NL East lead to two games over the second-place Atlanta Braves and 2.5 games over the Mets as they prepare for a big-time series against the defending-champion Los Angeles Dodgers.
Suddenly, August baseball has become extra meaningful in Philadelphia for a team that had stalked the lead in a wide-open — albeit disappointing — division.
“That’s the thing about this game; you have to stay in for the long haul,” Girardi said. “You can have bad weeks. We had a bad couple of weeks at one point during the season, but it’s a long season. You just have to keep doing your work, every day trying to get better and grinding things out.”
Now, the Phillies are being looked upon as the favorites to win the division and end a decade-long playoff drought — something one of the easiest remaining schedules in Major League Baseball will only help:
NL East odds
- Philadelphia Phillies: -140
- Atlanta Braves: +250
- New York Mets: +300
- Washington Nationals: +50000
- Miami Marlins: +50000
Odds courtesy of FanDuel