PHILADELPHIA -- June is only 12 days away, so the timing seems right for another Schwarberfest.
The Phillies need something to get them going while they work through their starting pitching problems. Kyle Schwarber hit a first-inning grand slam -- the Phillies’ first slam in nearly a year -- in a 12-3 victory over the Cubs on Saturday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park. Schwarber’s 435-foot blast helped the Phillies snap a five-game losing streak, giving them their first victory since last Saturday against the Rockies at Coors Field.
“I mean, heck,” Schwarber said. “There’s going to be stretches throughout the course of the year where we’re going to have games like [Friday’s 10-1 loss]. I’m sure there will be more times throughout the course of the year. We hope not, but it’s just baseball. Our job is to come in every day, be prepared and … put our best foot forward. That’s the beauty of this game. You can do everything you want to do in this game and get out. Or you can do everything you don’t want to do and get a hit.”
There has been plenty of hand wringing about the Phillies’ play through 45 games. It’s the pitching, it’s the defense, it’s the offense.
The rotation issues are real, which is why Aaron Nola’s stellar seven-inning effort on Saturday was so welcomed and praised. He has pitched six or more innings in seven consecutive starts, which came at the right time again with Phillies starters pitching two or fewer innings in three of the previous four games.
Philadelphia's defensive shortcomings can be tightened up, but the solutions to their offensive woes are already here. They simply need stars like Schwarber and Trea Turner to play the way they can play.
Schwarber entered Saturday batting .172 with 10 home runs, 19 RBIs, a .693 OPS and 91 OPS+. Turner, meanwhile, is batting .257 with four homers, 10 RBIs, a .692 OPS and 90 OPS+. He did not play for the first time this season on Saturday because Phillies manager Rob Thomson thought Turner, who was booed on Friday night, needed a break. He said Turner might be pressing after signing an 11-year, $300 million contract in December.
Turner will be back in the lineup on Sunday.
Schwarber knows what pressing feels like. He signed a four-year, $79 million contract in March 2022. He batted .185 with 11 home runs, 23 RBIs and a .721 OPS through the end of May. But then he batted .272 with 12 home runs, 27 RBIs and a 1.065 OPS in June, catapulting him to a National League-leading 46 home runs and .827 OPS by season's end.
“You want to make a good statement of yourself,” Schwarber said. “When you feel like you’re not living up to your expectations, you kind of get in your own way. I’m not saying that’s for [Turner]. I felt that last year, early last year, when I was scuffling. For me, it’s just putting in the work and being the same guy every day.”
Schwarber’s slam Saturday was just his second hit in eight days, but Thomson mentioned that he has been walking more lately -- eight times in his last five games -- which is an indication he is seeing the ball better.
See the ball better, hit the ball more.
And when Schwarber hits the ball, he typically hits it hard and far.
“I just feel like the work is getting there and the work’s been better for me,” Schwarber said. “I’m going to keep working in the cage and I’m going to take that out to the game.”
Schwarber’s torrid June last year coincided with Wawa’s popular Hoagiefest promotion. It did not go unnoticed. When the Phillies made the postseason in October, Wawa tweaked the promotion, calling it Schwarberfest.
Schwarber took off again.
Asked if it feels like June is just around the corner, Schwarber chuckled.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t know what day it is.
“I’m not counting down the days.”
He chuckled again.
“Funny question,” Schwarber said. “Can it be June tomorrow?”