'They're studs': Elite starting pitching propels Phils to 8-2 homestand

April 21st, 2024

PHILADELPHIA -- This is the start the Phillies envisioned.

They capped off an 8-2 homestand on Sunday afternoon with an 8-2 victory over the White Sox at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies are 14-8, matching their best start through 22 games since 2018. It’s a nice change for a team that needed until June 29 last season to get to six games over .500. They needed until July 8 to reach that mark in 2022.

Now they must maintain that momentum as they open a 10-game road trip beginning on Monday in Cincinnati.

“It’s not forgetting to fight,” Phillies designated hitter Kyle Schwarber said. “I feel like the last couple years, it benefited us. We started slow, but we were able to keep fighting throughout the course of the year. That’s going to be a big thing for us.”

The Phillies completed their best homestand of 10 or more games since a 9-2 homestand from June 6-16, 2011, because they got mostly excellent starting pitching. Phillies starters had a 1.51 ERA on the homestand. They pitched six or more innings eight times. They pitched one shutout. They carried one no-hitter into the seventh inning. They carried another into the eighth.

They struck out 75 and walked 20 in 65 2/3 innings.

“It’s been cool,” said Phillies right-hander , who allowed two runs over eight innings on Sunday. “It’s been really fun to watch. I love watching our guys. They’re studs. They’re nasty, too. I love them going deep into games. I love seeing that. I think that’s a goal for us. We just know how important it is to save the bullpen later on. It’s a long season. There are going to be ups and downs. Not every series is going to be like the last two. But we all feel good right now.”

Any other week and Phillies manager Rob Thomson probably lets Nola try to pitch a complete game -- Nola threw just 91 pitches in eight innings -- but the rotation has been so good recently that Thomson has been looking for ways to get his relievers work.

They can’t go too long without pitching.

“It’s been funny because we’ve been joking in the bullpen -- can we get some work in?” Phillies right-hander Jeff Hoffman said. “But I have more of a long-term view on it. Because I know there’s going to be a time when it’s like, ‘Damn, we’re getting crushed out here.’ It comes and goes. It’s all cycles. We were talking to Orion [Kerkering], we said, ‘Hey, enjoy this. You don’t know if you’re going to get it again this year.’ It’s funny how the game does that stuff to you. You’ve just got to take it for what it is. It’s a few extra days to get your body right, even if it’s early.”

The Phillies’ offense scored 51 runs and hit 15 homers on the homestand. They scored 45 runs and hit 11 homers in their first 12 games.

The Phillies played arguably the two worst teams in baseball in the Rockies and White Sox to cap the 10-game homestand. Does it matter? Not really. Good teams are supposed to beat bad teams. The best path to the postseason is playing .500 against good teams, and beating the rest of the league. Last season, only eight teams had a .500 or better record against teams with winning records. The Phillies were one of them (47-43).

Only seven teams did it in 2022. Only eight in 2021.

“You go into a series and you’re playing a team that hasn’t been playing well, I get a little fearful about how you’re going to respond,” Thomson said. “Our guys responded really well. We’ve just got to keep it going.”