PHILADELPHIA — Kyle Schwarber kicked off the post-Joe Girardi era with a first-pitch home run into midfield on Friday.
It went from there with a 10-0 win over the Angels at Citizens Bank Park. Bryson Stott hit the first home run of his career, a three-run blaster on the second. Bryce Harper hit a three-run homer in the fifth. Schwarber and Harper went again in the sixth yard. Zach Eflin batted great in eight innings. Nick Maton and Odúbel Herrera made dive catches to rob Mike Trout of a few hits.
It was just one game under interim manager Rob Thomson, but perhaps baseball operations president Dave Dombrowski’s reshuffle sparked something. Maybe it was the kick in the butt the players needed.
“It’s better that way because everyone in the clubhouse knows that now [stuff] not going well so changes have been made,” Phillies right fielder Nick Castellanos said before the game. “It’s a sad day when someone loses their job because we don’t perform. I take it seriously.
“It definitely shakes things up. We’ll see how that develops.”
The players said essentially the same thing after Girardi’s sacking: someone always bears the blame when a team underperforms, but the responsibility lies with the players.
“The players are playing,” said Rhys Hoskins. “The coaches don’t play. The players play. … At the end of the day, it’s about winning baseball games, and we’ve done too little of that.”
“From my point of view it always depends on the players because we are the ones who have to play,” said Castellanos. “If the players played better we would have more wins and Joe would still have a job.”
Girardi lost his job because the Phillies were 22-29 with a franchise-record payroll. They entered 12 games behind the Mets in the National League East and 5 1/2 games behind the Giants for the third NL wild card on Friday.
Dombrowski said he believes a new voice could help save the season. He said Thomson offers “a different kind of aspect of communication with the players than what was taking place. I think that was really important for us.”
It was an interesting comment. There didn’t seem to be much of a problem in the clubhouse with Girardi, as with previous Phillies managers, where players frequently complained about one thing or another. Girardi was certainly not Charlie Manuel, always laughing and joking with his players. But there’s no question Girardi’s decision not to field Corey Knebel on May 24 in Atlanta didn’t go down well. Knebel, Schwarber and Kyle Gibson met with Girardi the next day.
“It all comes down to winning, and we just didn’t do that,” Harper said. “As a team, we also bear the blame. There’s just no blame on Joe. We didn’t do our best. We didn’t do the things to be the team we were meant to be.
“I spoke to Joe this morning after it happened and thanked him. He put a lot of effort, time and organization into this game to make it great and get us where we need to be. I just wanted to let him know that I’m grateful for the time he’s spending away from his family, his daughter and her basketball career. I blame the guys in this clubhouse, myself included.”
Does he think Thomson can help?
“He’s been in the game for a long time,” Harper said. “He was around successful teams and also successful managers, like Joe Girardi, right? He has been with this organization for five years now. He knows the ins and outs. He’s bringing this new voice, maybe he’s more open now that he’s the manager and not the bench coach. I think we’ll see more of him.”
Thomson joked that not every night will be as easy as Friday. Managers don’t make too many difficult decisions in 10-run wins.
There will be difficult times but he enjoyed his debut.
“Before the game, I was a little more scared to deal with all that stuff and all those meetings,” Thomson said. “When we got to the game I felt okay. It was normal.”
The players then congratulated Thomson in the clubhouse. This was his first win as a big league manager.
“It was a great way to go out there, react and get today [Thomson] the first official managerial win,” said Schwarber. “We told him a few things. I congratulated him, things like that. Get out there and do it again tomorrow, right? He’s a baseball rat. He’s been in the game for a long time. To see that he gets that opportunity, if it’s not Joe, I think everyone’s really happy it’s going to be him.