'Hats off to us': Phils slug their way to sweep, franchise record

August 8th, 2022

PHILADELPHIA -- Interim manager Rob Thomson said late last month that the Phillies cannot take anybody lightly the rest of the season.

They got swept by a bad Cubs team coming out of the All-Star break. It cannot happen again, Thomson suggested.

“You get out front, put the foot on the pedal and run over people,” he said.

Philadelphia ran over the Nationals this weekend in a four-game series at Citizens Bank Park. Eight Phillies hit 14 home runs to set a franchise record for the most home runs in a single series. No team has hit that many homers in a series since the Blue Jays hit 15 against the Red Sox in June 2021. Rhys Hoskins homered in every game, including a two-run homer in the fourth inning in Sunday’s 13-1 victory.

The Phillies moved into the second NL Wild Card spot with a half-game lead over the Padres. They play 28 of their next 35 (80%) against teams with losing records.

The Phillies have a real opportunity in front of them.

“It’s nothing against the teams that we’ve had here in the past, but I think we have a better team,” Hoskins said. “I think we’re deeper. I think with the additions that we made at the Deadline, we just got more good players. You look at teams that have won and won a lot, especially later in the year, everyone is deep. One guy can go down and another guy steps in. I like our depth this year, and I think it’s going to really help us and hopefully carry us into October.”

Hoskins got drilled on the right biceps and forearm with a 94 mph fastball in his next plate appearance in the sixth. He dropped his bat and grabbed his arm. He is OK, but the Phillies did not like it. They don’t need any nonsense right now, whether the pitch was intentional or not. Bryce Harper, who has not played since June 25 after a pitch broke his left thumb, barked at Nationals pitcher Erasmo Ramírez from the dugout.

“Throw the ball over the plate!” he said.

Nationals pitcher Víctor Arano drilled Nick Castellanos in the back with a 94 mph fastball to load the bases in the eighth. The 30-year-old right fielder never reacted, but he had his say. Bryson Stott followed with a double to left-center field. Alec Bohm and Darick Hall scored easily. Phillies third base coach Dusty Wathan threw up the stop sign in plenty of time, but Castellanos never stopped running.

Castellanos said he wanted to score to get back for the fastball in the back.

The Phillies played with an edge this weekend until the final out.

“You have to,” Hoskins said.

“Just the fact that we’re winning games that we’re supposed to win,” Castellanos said. “That’s an art in itself. Because I’ve been on a lot of really talented teams and we give one or two games away against teams that we have no business losing against. So first and foremost, hats off to us for doing that. I think it’s just continuing to pull for guys and not giving anything away.”

The Phillies are 60-48. They were 22-29 when Thomson replaced Joe Girardi on June 3. Thomson set modest but achievable goals at the time.

Get to .500 and work in five-game chunks from there.

Get to five over .500.

Get to 10 over .500.

And on and on.

How much higher can they go?

“Who knows?” Thomson said. “We’re playing good baseball. We really are.”

Philadelphia found itself in a similar spot in recent seasons, although those teams were already starting to fade down the stretch. These Phillies seem to be picking up steam. It is unquestionably a more well-rounded team than those from 2018-21.

“I think we’re better equipped,” said Thomson, who was the bench coach on those teams. “I know the past few years we haven’t played well in September, but each team was a little bit different. It wasn’t the same exact group. This is a different group. There’s a lot of leadership in the clubhouse, a lot of winners on the field. And they’re playing well. I think there’s a lot of reasons why I have a lot of confidence this team can get right through to the end.”