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Phillies making the most of schedule in bottom-heavy National League

PHILADELPHIA — The Phillies entered play Saturday with baseball’s best record, but the better informed haters had already checked in on social media with their counter-digs.

So long as nobody cares enough to verify such claims, the social argument would hold that the Phillies’ 32-14 mark through Friday wasn’t altogether as impressive as that, because of the level of competition they’ve had the pleasure of facing over these first several weeks.

The Phillies began the season by losing two out of three at home to their usual regular season nemeses from Atlanta over the final three days of March. They immediately followed that up by losing two of three to Cincinnati over the first three days of April, leaving them with a 2-4 start at Citizens Bank Park.

In going 30-10 since then, the Phillies have not lost a series … nor have they faced anyone who has a .500 or better record. Among the Phillies’ early opponents, only the recently perennial National League East champion Braves have a winning mark, checking in at 26-15, 3 1/2 games behind the Phillies at the start of play Saturday.

Among the teams this Philadelphia juggernaut has steamrolled are the Colorado Rockies (15-29), the Chicago White Sox (14-33) and the Miami Marlins (15-32).

Others are the Toronto Blue Jays (19-25) and Los Angeles Angels (17-28). The Phillies have won series this season over five of the six division cellar-dwellers in the major leagues.

The one last-place anomaly is the Reds, who beat the Phils in the season’s second series, then split a four-gamer with them in Cincinnati in late April. Their record going into play on Saturday? All of 19-26, dead last in the NL Central.

Overall for the Phillies, their list of road kill isn’t so gosh-danged impressive, is it?

“Well,” winningest MLB manager Rob Thomson said prior to a game against the 20-23 Washington Nationals on Saturday, “you’ve still got to get it done. I mean, you’ve got to beat the teams. When you’ve got a favorable schedule, you better take advantage of it, and I think we’ve done a pretty good job.”

That they have, winning when other alleged top-shelf teams have failed (several of them right here) to beat the lesser lights.

But there seems to be several more lesser lights so far this season than what’s typical.

In the American League, where a 6-1 win over the weak White Sox Saturday presented them with a Phillies-tying (at the time) 32nd victory, the New York Yankees continued to surprise people … including all those blue blood baseball fans from the Upper West Side on out.

The Yankees were one of nine AL teams at .500 or better through Friday, two them (the 22-22 Detroit Tigers and 23-23 defending champion Texas Rangers) right at the even mark. That’s a pretty balanced league look.

Not so in the National League, where the Phillies started Saturday as one of only five .500 or better teams, the others being the dynamic Dodgers, big shot Braves, Brewers and Cubs. All of which doesn’t amount to much in Thomson’s mind.

While there are five teams with winning records, Thomson argues, “there are a lot of teams right around .500. Everybody talks about how we’ve (had) only three games against a .500 (or better) club, or I don’t know … but most of the teams we’ve played have been right around .500 or a couple of games below. And they were just .500 prior to us playing them.”

Following this series with the Nationals, the good times continue for the Phillies. They take on the Rangers, who may or may not be .500 by then, and follow that up with three more series against stragglers in Colorado, San Francisco and St. Louis.

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NOTES >> The U.S. Navy Leapfrog Parachute Team zeroed in and dropped into Citizens Bank Park Saturday in celebration of Military Appreciation Day. They were good, but hey, it’s not like they’re Kiteman or anything. … Thomson on the progress Taijuan Walker has made after taking a Starling Marte shot off the foot the other night: “Very encouraging. He’s feeling much better. I’m thinking he’s probably going to be alright (for his next start).” … Thomson talked Saturday about reliever Matt Strahm having “life to his fastball” this season, accounting for his streak of 17 straight scoreless appearances. His secret? “Starting him last year, although he did a great job and helped the club immensely, I think it took a toll on his stuff as the season went on,” Thomson said. “That and the hair – his hair coming out at the hitter.” Suffice to say Strahm and Brandon Marsh have a good contest going in that growth category.

Source: Berkshire mont

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