MILWAUKEE -- The big moment finally came, just like it had every day for the past week.
The Phillies grinded through a gritty first six innings Thursday afternoon at American Family Field. They made Brewers ace Corbin Burnes throw 113 pitches in 4 1/3 innings, but only had a one-run lead to show for it.
But after Burnes had long departed, Brad Boxberger threw Bryce Harper a 1-2 fastball down in the zone in the seventh. Harper barreled it up, launching the ball off the center-field scoreboard, a 425-foot blast that could have sailed into Lake Michigan.
Everything opened up from there. Kyle Schwarber and Odúbel Herrera hit two-run home runs in the eighth and ninth innings, respectively, to turn a nail-biter into an 8-3 rout and lock up a three-game sweep.
It was the Phillies’ seventh consecutive victory as Rob Thomson improved to 6-0 as interim manager. 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,” Zach Eflin said. “We’re having a lot of fun. Everybody is laughing every day we come. We’re enjoying being around each other. I think everything is clicking right now. We’re going to take it and ride with it.”
The Phillies return home to Philadelphia with winning vibes. It's their longest winning streak since an eight-game run from Aug. 1-8, 2021.
“Everybody is happy when you play good baseball,” Harper said. “It’s fun to win. It’s not 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 everybody in here. When you’re confident in your team and what you’re doing and your abilities … so let’s just keep winning games.”
The Phillies have an excellent opportunity in front of them. They play their next 13 against the D-backs, Marlins, Nationals and Rangers.
None of them currently have a winning record.
They play the D-backs and Marlins at Citizens Bank Park before hitting the road. What might the Bank be like on Friday following two consecutive sweeps?
“Geez, I don’t know,” Thomson said. “I don’t think I’ve been in the ballpark after two sweeps.”
Harper noted Philadelphia fans’ enthusiasm last weekend when the Phillies swept the Angels. He wondered if it might have been from the presence of Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. But the emotions during Sunday’s walk-off victory -- when Harper hit a game-tying grand slam in the eighth and Bryson Stott walked it off in the ninth -- was energy not felt at the ballpark in a very long time.
They want to keep it up.
“Seeing the Bank like that, it’s so much fun,” Harper said. “But we have to win. Everybody knows that. You win games, they show up. If you don’t, they’re not going to show up. And I don’t blame them. I probably wouldn’t either. We’ve got to keep going, keep playing the games we do.
"I think they’ve done a great job this year of getting to the ballpark and doing that. They expect us to win. They expect us to show up each night that we play. I love that. That’s the best thing about Philly. That’s the best thing about the fan base. When we win, we’ve got the best fans in baseball. They’ll let you know. And I love that.”
“I’m hoping it’s going to be electric,” Eflin said.
A great offense helps the cause. The Phillies are batting .280 with 18 home runs and a .934 OPS during the seven-game winning streak, which started with Joe Girardi’s final game as manager. They are averaging 7.6 runs per game in that stretch.
“It’s like a video game, honestly,” Eflin said. “There’s 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 rejoined the Phillies on Sunday following a month-long stint on the injured list. He is batting .385 (5-for-13) with one double, two triples, one RBI and a 1.198 OPS in four games. He fell a home run short of the cycle on Thursday, less than 24 hours after Stott fell a triple short of the cycle.
“You’ve got to match the vibe when you walk in,” Gregorius said.