It’s almost certainly a coincidence, but, well, let’s just mention it off the top anyway: Since Kyle Schwarber blew off a bunch of steam a few nights ago, the previously stalled Phillies offense hasn’t ceased chugging along.
Eight runs, nine hits Monday night.
Ten runs, 11 hits Tuesday night.
Seven runs, 12 hits Wednesday night.
The blitz has come in all forms and involved almost everyone. In Wednesday’s 7-3 victory over the unwitting Colorado Rockies, seldom-used backup catcher Garrett Stubbs got into the act, with two hits, including an RBI triple, in his first start since April 15.
“It seems like our lineup’s clicking pretty well right now, which is what we expected,” said Stubbs, whose first triple since July 20, 2018, in triple A gave the Phillies a 5-3 lead in the sixth inning. “We’re kind of at the end of where spring training would be if we had a full spring training. So, I expect this to be what we see going forward, too.”
OK, so maybe that’s a better explanation than Schwarber’s bat-slamming, helmet-spiking tirade over home-plate umpire Angel Hernandez’s strike zone in the ninth inning Sunday night. The Rockies probably have something to do with it, too. They entered Wednesday with a 4.53 team ERA, fourth-worst in the National League.
Whatever the reason, make it 25 runs in 24 offensive innings and three straight wins for the Phillies, who can achieve a rare four-game sweep in a matinee Thursday before heading to New York for a three-game showdown with the division-leading Mets.
“As a lineup right now, these last three days, I think we’ve done a great job of getting on starters earlier, making it tough for bullpen guys as well,” said Bryce Harper, who finished with three hits in his 10th consecutive game as the designated hitter. “Coming into this series, we needed to get going.”
The latest onslaught began in a 49-degree chill with Odúbel Herrera’s fifth career leadoff homer. But it was really fueled by opportunistic, aggressive baserunning. The Phillies scored at least five runs — and could easily have had two more — that were tied to seizing an extra 90 feet on the bases.
In the second inning, Johan Camargo went first to third on a soft, one-out single to center field by Stubbs, who boldly tagged up and went to second on Herrera’s shallow sacrifice fly to center that scored Camargo easily for a 2-0 lead.
After the Rockies tied it up at 2-2, Harper led off the third inning with a standup triple to deep center and scored on a groundout. With two out, Alec Bohm singled to right, then took off with contact and scored from first on Didi Gregorius’ double to center field for a 4-2 edge.
In the seventh inning, Harper and Nick Castellanos advanced on a passed ball and both wound up scoring, Harper on Bohm’s infield single and Castellanos on a sacrifice fly to stretch the lead to 7-3.
“We want our guys to be aggressive on the bases,” manager Joe Girardi said. “Paco [Figueroa, first base coach] works really hard with them all spring long, during the season, and we think about taking that extra 90 feet every time we go out there.”
Entering play Wednesday, the Phillies advanced more than one base on a single or more than two on a double only 40% of the time, below the league average of 44%. But they also took 17 bases on fly balls, passed balls, and wild pitches, slightly above league average (16), and made only three outs on the bases.
They’ve been aggressive without being reckless, an additional dimension of an offense that finally seems to be in sync.
Taking the lead
With Jean Segura getting a night off, Girardi needed a fill-in leadoff hitter. He settled on Herrera, who batted atop the order 63 times last season, more often than any Phillies hitter.
Herrera delivered, too, belting his fifth career leadoff homer on a heater from spot-starting Rockies right-hander Ryan Feltner. It marked Herrera’s second homer in as many games.
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Girardi likely will stick with Segura in the leadoff spot for a while. But it’s also possible Herrera gets additional opportunities there, especially against right-handed pitching. Entering the game, Phillies leadoff hitters were 12-for-75 (.160) with a .241 on-base percentage.
Although it wasn’t his sharpest performance ever, Ranger Suárez gave the Phillies their fourth consecutive solid start.
Suárez gave up two runs in the third inning and a sixth-inning solo homer to C.J. Cron, who is 8-for-22 in six games against the Phillies this season. But he also threw 97 pitches and finished six innings, his longest start after a truncated spring training. He has a 3.45 ERA in his last three starts and a 4.42 mark overall.
In the last four games, starters Aaron Nola, Kyle Gibson, Zach Eflin, and Suárez have combined to allow six runs in 24 ⅔ innings (2.19 ERA).
Seranthony Domínguez and Brad Hand were solid in relief, getting out of jams created by Jose Alvarado and Jeurys Familia in the seventh and eighth innings, respectively.
Zack Wheeler, 0-3 with an 8.53 ERA through three starts after not pitching in a major-league spring-training game, will start the series finale at 1:05 p.m. Thursday (NBC Sports Philadelphia, 94-WIP). He will face Rockies lefty Austin Gomber (1-1, 4.20).