MILWAUKEE – The big moment finally came, as it did every day for the past week.
The Phillies grinded through the first six innings Thursday afternoon at American Family Field. They let Brewers ace Corbin Burnes throw 113 pitches in 4 1/3 innings but only had a one-run lead.
But long after Burnes left, Brad Boxberger threw a 1-2 fastball into the zone for Bryce Harper in the seventh. Harper shot it up and blasted the ball off the midfield scoreboard, a 425-foot blast that could have sailed into Lake Michigan.
From then on everything opened up. Kyle Schwarber and Odúbel Herrera hit two homers in the eighth and ninth innings, respectively, to turn a nail biter into an 8-3 loss and secure a three-game sweep.
It was the Phillies’ seventh straight win as interim manager Rob Thomson improved to 6-0. He is the first manager to win his first six games since Felipe Alou won his first seven with the Giants in 2003.
“It feels like there’s a spark in the clubhouse,” said Zach Eflin. “We have a lot of fun. Everyone laughs every day we come. We enjoy being together. I think everything clicks now. We will take it and drive it.”
The Phillies return to Philadelphia in a winning mood. It is their longest winning streak in eight games from August 1-8, 2021.
“Everyone enjoys playing good baseball,” Harper said. “It’s fun to win. It’s no fun to lose. I think that helps the city, I think that helps the organization, I think that helps our fan base, I think that helps everyone here. If you have confidence in your team, in what you do and in your abilities… so let’s just keep winning games.”
The Phillies have an excellent opportunity ahead of them. They play their next 13 against the D-Backs, Marlins, Nationals and Rangers.
Neither of them currently has a winning record.
They play the D-Backs and Marlins at Citizens Bank Park before hitting the streets. What could the bench look like on Friday after back-to-back sweeps?
“Gosh, I don’t know,” Thomson said. “I don’t think I was in the stadium after two sweeps.”
Harper noted the excitement of Philadelphia fans last weekend as the Phillies defeated the Angels. He wondered if it was the presence of Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. But the emotion during Sunday’s walk-off win — as Harper hit a game-winning grand slam in the eighth and Bryson Stott put him down in the ninth — was energy not felt at the ballpark in a very long time.
“It’s so fun to see the bank like this,” Harper said. “But we have to win. Everyone knows that. You win games, they show up. If you don’t, they won’t show up. And I don’t blame them. I probably wouldn’t either. We have to keep going, keep playing the games we’re making.
“I think they did a great job this year getting to the stadium and doing that. They expect us to win. They expect us to show up every night we play. I love that. That’s the best thing about Philly. That’s the best thing about the fandom. If we win, we’ll have the best fans in baseball. They will let you know. And I love that.”
“I hope it’s going to be electric,” Eflin said.
A great offense helps the cause. The Phillies are batting .280 with 18 homers and .934 OPS during a seven-game winning streak that began with Joe Girardi’s last game as manager. They average 7.6 runs per game at this stretch.
“It’s like a video game, honestly,” Eflin said. “There are literally no breaks in the lineup, one through nine. It’s a special group of guys. When they’re on, they’re on.”
Didi Gregorius returned to the Phillies on Sunday after a month-long stint on the injured list. He hits .385 (5 for 13) with a double, two triples, an RBI and a 1.198 OPS in four games. He fell a home run behind the cycle on Thursday, less than 24 hours after Stott missed the cycle three times.
“You have to match the atmosphere when you come in,” said Gregorius.