There is certainly nothing normal about this baseball season.
After two months, the Phillies are more than just in the hunt. They are right in the thick of the battle.
Three games behind in the division, even for a last-place team, is hardly a failure, especially when you look at all the Phillies have going against them. Honestly, if they were 10 games back in the division to this point, would you be surprised?
This team, without a single inning from Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, and without several starts from both Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay, has managed to sit right behind the rest of their division foes. And when you consider that they have only played 21 games against division opponents in 52 games, there is plenty of time left to make up those three games.
The thing about the NL East to this point is that this date means quite a bit to baseball. June and July 1 are markers to how a team will succeed in the future of a season. This year, June 1 has hit and there is no way to tell who the NL will send to the Postseason. At this rate, though, one thing is for sure; more than one NL East team will be in the Postseason.
The addition of a second wildcard only makes this battle better. One week ago, the Atlanta Braves were leading the division. One eight-game losing streak later, and not only are they not leading, but they were at one point in a tie for last, when they had the Phillies five games behind them. There’s not a team in this division right now that stands alone as good or bad.
It is as wide open a division as they come. There is no definitive good team. The Phillies are somehow here with all of their injuries, struggles and mediocre play. The Mets and Marlins have had bullpen issues that have cost them wins. The Nationals are in huge injury trouble of their own. Recently, so are the Braves, and they too have played inconsistent as well.
No one team has it easier than the other. And somehow, that may help the Phillies.
The Phillies are already known to be a better second-half team, but what really makes a difference is playing equal competition. Last season, as the Phillies continued to pull away in the division toward a franchise-record 102 wins, they seemed to play down to their weaker opponents. Now, they can’t play down to teams with better records than themselves.
There is still far too much time left in the season – 110 games if you’re the Phillies. But with the division this close, it should be an exciting run to the finish.