Since the magical night of Michael Lorenzen’s no hitter, the Phillies have played 13 games. They’ve trailed at one point or another in all 13 of them.

They have a winning record in those games.

The latest come-from-behind victory was a 7-2 win over the rudderless St. Louis Cardinals in the opener of a three-game series Friday.

Yes, this was a little different version of a “come-from-behind victory.” They trailed in the first inning by two runs and then the offense boomed, with seven of the 11 hits in the games going for extra bases. They pulled ahead in the second inning and then ran away from the Redbirds after that.

The primary reason the Phillies keep coming from behind to win games is their lineup is finally starting to rev up. In those 13 games they’ve scored 78 runs, or 6.0 per game. And keep in mind that in those 13 games was that three-game skid against Minnesota and Toronto in which the offense sputtered along to score just two runs, meaning they’ve averaged 7.6 runs in the other 10 games.

We’ll get into the offense in a minute, but I want to examine the starting pitching a little bit in these games. Let’s take a look:

  • 8/10 Washington 6-2 W – Nola, 5IP 1ER; 1st 0, 2nd 0, 3rd+ 1
  • 8/11 Minnesota 13-2 W – Sanchez, 6IP 2ER; 1st 0, 2nd 2, 3rd+ 0
  • 8/12 Minnesota 1-8 L – Walker, 5IP 3ER; 1st 1, 2nd 0, 3rd+ 2
  • 8/13 Minnesota 0-3 L – Suarez, 6 1/3IP 2ER; 1st 1, 2nd 0, 3rd+ 1
  • 8/15 Toronto 1-2 L – Wheeler, 7IP 1ER, 1st 0, 2nd 0, 3rd+ 1
  • 8/16 Toronto 9-4 W – Nola, 5IP 4ER, 1st 0, 2nd 2, 3rd+ 2
  • 8/18 Washington 7-8 L – Lorenzen 3 1/3IP 6ER, 1st 0, 2nd 1, 3rd+ 6
  • 8/19 Washington 12-3 W – Sanchez 6IP 2ER, 1st 0, 2nd 0, 3rd+ 3
  • 8/20 Washington 3-4 L – Wheeler 7IP 4ER, 1st 4, 2nd 0, 3rd+ 0
  • 8/21 San Francisco 10-4 W – Nola 7IP 2ER, 1st 1, 2nd 0, 3rd+ 1
  • 8/22 San Francisco 4-3 W – Walker 5IP 2ER, 1st 1, 2nd 0, 3rd+ 2
  • 8/23 San Francisco 6-8 L – Lorenzen 5 2/3 IP 4ER, 1st 1, 2nd 0, 3rd+ 3
  • 8/25 St. Louis 7-2W – Sanchez 6IP 2ER, 1st 2, 2nd 0, 3rd+ 0

What are we seeing here? Well, for one thing, they’ve given up at least one run in the first inning in five straight games, and in seven of the 13. And in 10 of the 13 games, they were trailing by the second inning, so they’re giving up a lot of their runs early.

Opponents have scored 37 runs in these 13 games off of the Phillies starters. That’s in 74 1/3 innings. Of those 37 runs, 11 have come in the first inning, five in the second inning, and 22 in innings 3 through 7. Or a better way to put it:

  • The Phillies starters have allowed 11 runs in the last 13 first innings (0.85 per)
  • The Phillies starters have allowed five runs in the last 13 second innings (0.39 per)
  • The Phillies starters have allowed 22 runs in the 48 1/3 innings pitched from the 3rd inning on in the last 13 games. (0.46 per)

A few of those runs are unearned, but you can see the imbalance.

I point this out not to be critical, although getting behind early in 77% of your games played is not ideal, but to actually talk about how the Phillies starters adjust in-game.

They are very good at identifying what the opponent’s game plan at the plate is early and adjusting to it accordingly. This is credit to the pitchers, the catchers calling the game, and pitching coach Caleb Cotham.

I asked Rob Thomson about this from the view of the 13 games in total and Garrett Stubbs about this with Cristopher Sanchez specifically on Friday.

Thomson:

“Right now I think it’s just something we are going through. But I do think our guys make adjustments. Caleb works with these guys ad talks to them between innings and does a great job with them. They change some things. Change how they’re going to attack hitters. And it makes them keep them off balance.”

Stubbs:

“We went away from the heater later in the game. It’s typical for most starters to have fastballs early and more breaking stuff later, but we did that earlier and stuck with it. You saw him get through six innings. He’s a good pitcher. It’s fun to work with him. (His changeup) is an incredible pitch. The biggest difference maker from last year to this year is the strikes. Guys have to be on guard at all times. They know that he’s going to be in the zone, so when you have a really good pitch like that changeup, and the slider too, the slider is a really good pitch as well, so, when you have breaking pitches like that and you are able to throw strikes, guys have to be ready to swing and it’s hard to hold up when that changeup is down below the zone.”

Here’s an example of what Stubbs was saying:

It seems adjusting on the fly is a strength of the Phillies starters. We’ve seen it a couple times with Wheeler this season, especially against the Nationals. There was the game a few weeks ago where they hit him early and he had a conversation with Cotham where there was a possibility he was tipping pitches, and then he made a change and shut them down thereafter. He did it again against Washington in the Little League Classic, giving up hits to the first five batters of the game and then giving up just two hits in the next seven innings. Taijuan Walker seems to do it every start. Aaron Nola got into trouble in the first inning against the Giants, got out of it allowing just one run, then recovered and allowed just one run in the next six innings.

More runs are scored in the first inning of baseball games than any other, so this isn’t unique to the Phillies, but the ability for starters to really bear down and keep the game where it needs to be for the offense to be able to take over and win games, is a very valuable skill. And the Phillies seem to have it.

As for the offense against the Cardinals.

‘We Don’t Want to Give the Pitcher a Breather.”

Alec Bohm hit a career-high 14th home run:

The Phillies would prefer that Bohm be closer to 25 home runs at the end of a season than 15, and he may eventually get there, but when you consider how consistent he’s been at the plate all season and how he has a knack to drive in runs when men are on base, this version of Bohm is really good too.

Kyle Schwarber thinks Bohm can still be a 30-35 homer guy too. He said it after the game last night.

Speaking of Schwarber, he is channeling his June self of late:

Schwarber became the first Phillie since Ryan Howard to amass 35 homers in consecutive seasons. He has now taken over the team lead in RBI as well (almost all from the leadoff spot, mind you). And he’s on a bit of a heater in recent games. In his past seven games Schwarber is hitting .320 with a .500 on base percentage and a 1.500 OPS. He has eight hits, seven of them for extra bases (5 HR, 2 2B) and nine RBI.

Schwarber is on pace to finish the season with 44 HR and 105 RBI. He had more homers (46) and fewer RBI (94) in 2022. It’s almost outside the realm of rational understanding that he will likely exceed 100 RBI without hitting .200 (heck, he might not even hit .190), but he can thank his teammates at the bottom of the order for that.

The bottom third of the Phillies lineup this season has an OPS of .747. That’s second-best in all of baseball behind only, you guessed it, the Braves (.774). But a more interesting comparison is to see where the bottom third of the Phillies lineup was a season ago.

They were still pretty good compared to the rest of the league, coming in fifth in the Majors, but their OPS was .700. That’s a 47-point increase year-over-year. That’s what’s made the difference in Schwarber’s productivity.

“That’s the way our lineup is constructed,” Schwarber said. “One through nine we’re going to slap an at bat on you. We don’t want to give the pitcher a breather. We want to stay on him the whole time out there. When you have a lineup capable of doing that on a daily basis it’s really impressive.”

With Bryce Harper suddenly back to his MVP-form, Schwarber driving in all the runs and Trea Turner looking a lot more like himself, the Phillies lineup is starting to resemble the vision of what we all thought it was going to be back at the beginning of March, and that’s got to excite fans as we inch ever-closer to October.

A few other notes:

  • Schwarber’s homer was the 45th for the Phillies this month. The franchise record for homers in a month is 46 set in September, 2019. They’re not going to come close to the Major League record (74 set by the Yankees, also in the great juiced ball season of 2019), but if they can hit five more homers this month (five games remaining) they would be just the 100th team to ever hit 50 in a month. (I just looked… Seven of the top 17 in this category occurred in 2019. The MLB sure does embarrass itself sometimes.)
  • Brandon Marsh extended his hitting streak to eight games. It matches the longest of his career.
  • Trea Turner became the first player in baseball since 2012 to steal 23 bases from the start of the season without being caught.
  • Expect Bryce Harper to be back at 1B Saturday for the first time since leaving a game with back spasms on Aug. 10. His back issues haven’t affected his swing at all. Since leaving that game Harper has slashed .366/480/.829 with an OPS of 1.309 in 50 plate appearances (2 2B, 1 3B, 5HR, 9RBI).
  • Stubbs is a beaut.