PHILADELPHIA -- Maybe all the Phillies needed was a break. A break from the losing. The dormant offense. The malaise of the first half.Since returning from the All-Star break, the Phillies' offense has awoken to the tune of nearly six runs a game, two better than its first-half average, capped
PHILADELPHIA -- Maybe all the Phillies needed was a break. A break from the losing. The dormant offense. The malaise of the first half.
Since returning from the All-Star break, the Phillies' offense has awoken to the tune of nearly six runs a game, two better than its first-half average, capped by a 6-3 series-clinching victory over the first-place -- but struggling -- Brewers on Sunday at Citizens Bank Park.
Did the break help?
"It seems like it," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "Perhaps everyone was regenerated, starting fresh. That could have something to do with it."
Since the Midsummer Classic, the Phillies are three times as likely to score at least five runs than in the 87 games before it.
At least five Phillies runs have scored in each of their last seven games, a feat the club hadn't accomplished in one season since 2005 at the naissance of the Utley-Rollins-Howard core that brought Philadelphia salvation.
It was that core that made an impression on Mackanin in his first year as a Phillies bench coach in 2009, and it was that team that he was reminded of after the Phillies rattled off their fifth win in their last seven games, all powered by their clicking offense.
"My first year here as a coach was '09," Mackanin said. "In no way am I comparing ourselves to that team, but it was reminiscent the way we've been swinging the bats of us coming back and coming from behind and catching up and beating other teams."
In the streak of five-plus-run outings entering Sunday, the Phillies posted the second-best batting average (.321), on-base percentage (.388), weighted on-base average (.376) and OPS (.897) in the Majors.
It's hard to blame Mackanin's mind from wandering back to that team. This club, still with the Majors' worst record, is not destined for the World Series like the 2009 club. But given a first-half offense that scored the second-fewest runs in the big leagues after being the lowest-scoring team in '16 -- and the lowest-scoring franchise since '13 -- the contrast is stark.
The flag commemorating the 2009 trip to the World Series flies in left-center field, just right of the section where Nick Williams' fourth home run found the seats.
"Hitting's contagious. I always say when one guy does it, why can't the next?" said Williams, the organization's fifth-best prospect per MLBPipeline.com, who was called up on the final day of June.
Williams is just one part of the recent surge, but his contributions can't be ignored. After going 1-for-3 with three RBIs on Sunday, he's hitting .309 with a .603 slugging percentage in the Majors.
It could be rubbing off. The scoring streak had seen eight of nine Phillies with double-digit at-bats hitting over .300 entering Sunday's game, which saw a decisive four-run fifth inning. Odubel Herrera is the only Phillie under contract for 2018. It's no secret there are spots up for grabs. A late playoff run is out of the question, but players aren't motivated by that -- they're motivated by trying to earn a spot on the lineup card come next season.
"Everybody is playing for a job next year," Mackanin said. "Everybody is playing to be part of our future, and I think the guys are competing amongst themselves. It's good to see. Everybody's more aggressive. They're into the games. Obviously, our offense has come alive."
Ben Harris is a reporter for MLB.com based in Philadelphia.