PHILADELPHIA — Rob Thomson huddled with Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos at their lockers for a few minutes early Sunday evening at Citizens Bank Park.
The Phillies just snapped a nine-game winning streak with a 13-1 loss to Arizona. It started with a long 41-pitch first inning from Ranger Suárez. The frame included a couple of glaring defensive mistakes that set the tone for a long afternoon. It ended with catcher Garrett Stubbs making his first career pitching performance, throwing 88 mph fastballs as he tried to save some bullpen arms for a better, more competitive day.
“Look,” Schwarber said. “It’s one game, right? There’s a lot more games to go. Obviously, we didn’t play the sharpest today. That’s what you can chalk it up to. We didn’t play our sharpest. We won the series. There’s things that you take away, you learn from and you move on. But there’s still a lot of positives in what we’ve been doing. And I think that’s going to be the biggest takeaway — it’s the positive stuff from what we’ve been doing here the last 11 days. It’s playing really solid baseball.”
The Phillies (30-30) won nine consecutive games for the first time since a nine-game streak in 2011, when they won a franchise-record 102 games. This winning streak came with memorable moments. There was Bryce Harper’s game-tying grand slam in the eighth inning and Bryson Stott’s walk-off homer in the ninth on June 5 against the Angels. There was Alec Bohm’s game-tying homer and Matt Vierling’s go-ahead homer on June 7 against Brewers closer Josh Hader.
There were dominant pitching performances, clutch hits and solid defense throughout, as Thomson became the third manager since at least 1900 to win the first eight games of his career, joining Pat Moran (1915 Phillies) and Joe M. Morgan (1988 Red Sox) .
The Phillies believe they are closer to the team that won nine in a row than the team that started 22-29 and cost Joe Girardi his job.
“I think it’s just getting comfortable, man,” Castellanos said. “Having the confidence that when we go down that we can come back. Even though we lost today, that’s still another series win for us.”
Of course, nothing is ever perfect. Suárez continued to struggle with his control and command of him. He issued leadoff walks in the first and fifth innings after getting to two strikes against both hitters. Both runners scored.
Suarez has been mostly inefficient this season. He throws a ton of pitches, forcing him from the game earlier than expected.
Castellanos went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts. He is batting .251 with seven homers, 31 RBIs and a .715 OPS. Compared to last season, he is striking out more and not hitting the ball hard as often.
“I haven’t been comfortable all year,” Castellanos said. “But it’s only a matter of time, I’ll tell you that. It’s kind of one of those things that sometimes you just go through phases that you don’t really have a good feeling at the plate. At least for me. Just one at-bat. Honestly sometimes all it takes is just one swing and then it just clicks and starts rolling.
“It’s just me, honestly. I just don’t feel comfortable.”
Castellanos had a double check-swing down the right-field line late in Saturday’s victory over the D-backs. Bryce Harper scored from first on the play. A lot of people thought it might be the hit Castellanos needed to snap out of his funk.
“That’s just a reminder, don’t take the game so serious,” Castellanos said. “Baseball can be a funny game sometimes. sometimes it can [really] suck, you know? That’s the honest truth of it.”
But baseball has been mostly good for the Phillies since Thomson took charge. Players have responded to his laid back demeanor.
They believe it can lead to more good things.
“At the end of the day, we won the series,” Thomson said. “We have to move to tomorrow. That’s the message to the guys. Just move forward. We’ve got a new series coming. Just keep winning series. We got good starting pitching for the most part [during the streak]. Our bullpen was good. We scored a lot of runs. We got out in front of people and for the most part we played really good defense. The ball was hit to somebody, we caught it, threw it and got an out. We always kind of thought that this is the club that we are.”