Things are going so well for the Phillies, they’re even beating the Miami Marlins.
Garrett Stubbs, the backup catcher and the 28th player on the 28-man opening-day roster, launched a three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth to flip the script against the Phils’ unlikely perpetual nemeses. The Marlins usually stink, but the Phillies usually find ways to lose to them nonetheless.
Not Wednesday. On Wednesday, with one swing, they went from shutout to walk-off.
Stubbs launched a two-out, two-strike, lefty-on-lefty bomb and drove home two runners to help the Phillies win two of three against the visitors. That made it 10 wins in the 12 games since former bench coach Rob Thomson slid over to his right and replaced his buddy Joe Girardi on the manager’s stool in the Citizens Bank Park home dugout.
“We kept battling and grinding right till the end,” Thomson said.
The Phillies entered the day 23-35 against the Marlins since 2019, when Bryce Harper arrived to rejuvenate the lineup. The Marlins have been a significantly worse team in that span ... unless they faced the Phils.
Perhaps even that curse is wearing out.
This team keeps reminding you of Charlie Manuel’s 2006 Phillies, who stayed in the playoff hunt for 161 games, then, beginning in 2007, won five consecutive National League East titles.
Thomson’s the first manager since Manuel to combine a comfortable personality with baseball expertise and a talented roster. Nothing seems to bother them, and they never, ever give up.
The Phillies won in their final at-bat four times in these past 12 games. After Wednesday’s win they were a game over .500 and sat 3½ games out of the final wild-card spot. They’re not a shoo-in, but they’re on a roll, and they’re headed to Washington to face the worst team in the National League.
Staff ace Zack Wheeler starts Thursday in Washington, when, thanks to a doubleheader Friday, the Phillies begin a series with five games in four days. The way things are going, they might win six.
You’ve got to believe they’ll keep on winning. There’s just something in the air.
The remarkable thing about the win was less its occurrence than what occurred before it.
The night before, Rhys Hoskins had given the Phillies a one-run lead in the bottom of the eighth inning. Corey Knebel entered, blew a save for the fourth time this season, lost the game, his fifth, and lost his closer’s job, finally. Alec Bohm, a subpar third baseman, and Hoskins, a subpar first baseman, combined for an error in the ninth. J.T. Realmuto, the $115 million catcher who used to be an elite defender, dropped a pop-up.
It was a soul-crushing loss. The sort of loss that lingers like a Las Vegas hangover. The sort of loss typical of the previous 3⅓ seasons, when bad bullpens and bad defense delivered the most disappointing brand of baseball in Philadelphia since the late 1990s.
The last time the Phillies lost like that it was May 24, when Bryce Harper’s ninth-inning home run at Atlanta gave the Phillies a lead, but Girardi refused to use Knebel a third day in a row. Nick Nelson and brutal defense behind him lost the game in the ninth. That sort of decision and those sorts of failures cost Girardi his job on June 3.
Except, this time, their souls weren’t crushed. There was no hangover. They couldn’t lose this one, no matter how hard they tried.
Baseball gods smiled
It seems like Thomson can do no wrong.
In the eighth inning Wednesday, Hoskins led off with his 17th hit in his last nine games. He’s hitting .447 in that span, and nine of those 17 hits went for extra bases, including a leadoff triple in the sixth, where the Phillies stranded him. Trailing, 1-0, Thomson chose to pinch-run Matt Vierling for Hoskins, with sluggers Nick Castellanos and Bryce Harper due up.
Vierling was thrown out trying to steal second base.
Stubby, 29, at (ahem) 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds, was sure to come through, right?
After all, this was his 26th big-league start, and he’d hit two home runs in the last four years.
Yes, he was sure to come through. Like 33-year-old rookie Chris Coste did in 2006.
On teams like this, guys like Stubbs always come through.
You should, too.