One week after a crushing defeat, the Philadelphia Phillies are riding high once again after Atlanta Braves sweep
PHILADELPHIA — When Bryce Harper’s three-run home run cleared the center field fence in Washington a week ago, it dropped the Philadelphia Phillies to an early low point. They were 4-8 and had dropped two of three to a division rival in walk-off fashion. The bullpen was in shambles and dropping five of six seemed as if it might foreshadow more struggles in South Philly this summer.
A week can make a big difference.
With back-to-back-to-back home runs in the eighth inning Sunday afternoon, the Phillies broke a tie against the Atlanta Braves and clinched a sweep with a 5-2 victory. The Phillies have won consecutive series for the first time since August and have their first four-game winning streak since that same month.
With a 9-9 record, power coming from all places in the lineup and the organization’s pitching depth showing itself to be a strength, the Phillies are on an upswing through the first six series of a young season.
“Obviously, it stinks when you lose a game like the game we lost at Washington, but as long as we win, it doesn’t matter how,” center fielder Odubel Herrera said via an interpreter. “The important thing is to win. It’s contagious, people like it. If we keep winning, it’s great for us.”
ATL@PHI: Herrera smashes back-to-back-to-back homer
Herrera was one of many bright spots for Philadelphia on a sunny Sunday. He entered the afternoon hitting .179 in his past eight games, but he launched an eighth inning home run — the third and final of the team’s streak — to punctuate the afternoon. Manager Pete Mackanin said it looked like Herrera was releasing some frustration with the blast.
The most powerful revelation this season has come from second baseman Cesar Hernandez, though. The leadoff hitter entered the season with more muscle, and he said he “tried to the same thing” during the offseason that led to his hot close to last season.
There have been early dividends.
Hernandez hit six home runs all of last season, and he has four already in April. Last year, No. 4 didn’t come until Aug. 20. At the end of April, he has a slash line of .338/.376/.939. His two-run home run in the eighth kicked off the power explosion and it continues to make the Phillies lineup more well-rounded.
“He’s an on-base guy. He’s a good leadoff hitter, but now I’m starting to think of him as a cleanup hitter,” Mackanin quipped.
“It is nice. It’s good to see. He’s not trying to hit home runs. He’s trying to hit line drives.”
With power like that, right fielder Aaron Altherr said, the Phillies never feel like they’re out of a game, and with the talent in the dugout, he feels like they can surprise some opponents down the stretch. Philadelphia is currently sitting in third place in the division with Miami coming to town Tuesday for a three-game set.
The season is still young with 144 left on the schedule. But the Phillies have already hit their share of lows and highs in the first 18 games. If the small sample is indicative of anything, it shows Philadelphia has an entertaining ball club with the potential to go back-to-back-to-back at a crucial point in a game or get strong pitching from a pitcher like right-hander Zach Eflin.
There are miles to go in the season, but in April, Mackanin senses the positives that could make the Phillies a tough out for anyone this summer.
“It’s always a bonus when you have a team like that,” Mackanin said. “These guys pull for each other. Because we have a good bench, we have some interchangeable players who can step in and do a good job.”