PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies reached a low point on Aug. 22 in Atlanta.
Their newly revamped bullpen blew another late lead in a 6-5 loss to the Braves at Truist Park, extending their losing streak to five games and dropping them to 9-14. Philadelphia had the second-worst record in the National League, despite carrying one of the highest payrolls in baseball. Manager Joe Girardi entered the clubhouse afterward and addressed the team.
The talk did not last long.
“Fifteen seconds maybe,” Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins said following Saturday’s 4-1 victory over the Braves at Citizens Bank Park. “He really just said, ‘Look, just keep believing in yourself. This is going to turn. There’s too many good players in here for it to not turn.’ Sure enough, it did.”
“It was time to start playing good baseball,” right-hander Zach Eflin said.
The Phillies have won five consecutive games since that meeting to improve to 14-14. It is their longest winning streak since July 31-Aug. 5, 2018. In a 60-game season with eight teams making the postseason in each league, the Phils left the ballpark on Saturday with the seventh-best record in the NL.
“I think we gained some momentum with that win, the last one in Atlanta,” Hoskins said, referring to last Sunday’s dramatic 6-5 win, which concluded with a play at a plate to seal the victory. “It was good to see after the off-day [Monday] that we were able to keep it going in Washington, and obviously coming back home is always good.”
It is at least the second time that Girardi proactively, and briefly, addressed his team this season. He also said a few words after a loss at Yankee Stadium on Aug. 3, when the Phillies fell to 1-3. Girardi’s approach is different than former manager Gabe Kapler, who rarely addressed his players during rough stretches. He once said late in 2018, following a 15-30 stretch, that he was not convinced that team meetings helped.
Can a brief talk from somebody like Girardi help?
“I would think so,” Hoskins said. “I think from someone that’s seen thousands of baseball games, to know that he thinks that we have the talent to be better than our record shows, obviously it instills a ton of confidence in us. It’s usually what we need."
The Phillies can sweep the Braves and move within one game of first place in the NL East with a victory in Sunday night’s series finale. If the Phils win, it could ramp up the front office's desire to make another trade or two before Monday’s Trade Deadline.
“I talk to [general manager] Matt [Klentak], and we talk about our club all the time,” Girardi said. “I know that Matt and his staff are always looking to get better. I know that. But we’ll just have to wait and see what happens. But I like our club. I like the way we’re playing. I like how resilient they are.”