Just hours after the firing of Joe Girardi as manager, the Philadelphia Phillies looked like a new team, defeating the Los Angeles Angels 10-0 Friday night. Zach Eflin pitched eight shutout innings, Kyle Schwarber and Bryce Harper hit two home runs apiece, and interim manager Rob Thomson began his managerial career on a high note.
A Change in Energy
One pitch into the bottom of the first, a solo home run from Kyle Schwarber signaled a change in demeanor from the Phillies’ offense. Schwarber, who went 2-for-3 with two solo home runs and three runs scored, hit the first of five home runs on the night for the Phillies. Bryce Harper picked up home runs of his own, amassing four RBI, while roommate and rookie Bryson Stott hit his first career home run, a three-run shot in the bottom of the second.
Speaking of the rookie, Stott was joined by fellow up-and-comers in Nick Maton and Mickey Moniak. The trio served as the Phillies’ seven through nine hitters, combining for four hits on the night. Maton hit an RBI triple in the bottom of the fifth to score J.T. Realmuto. Next inning, Maton dove to stop a line drive from Millville, N.J. native Mike Trout, spraining his right shoulder in the process. The injury itself did not seem all that serious, but is nonetheless concerning for the 25-year old.
With stellar defensive plays backing him up, Zach Eflin navigated a strong Angels lineup with ease. After allowing a leadoff single to kick off the game, Eflin quickly dispatched two MVP’s in Shohei Ohtani and Trout to get back on track. Eflin pitched eight shutout innings, hurling 104 pitches on the night. Eflin allowed only five hits and one walk on the night while striking out six Angels.
Where Girardi Left the Phillies
Going into Friday’s series opener with the Angels, the Phillies (22-29) found themselves 12 games back in the National League East as the New York Mets (35-18) hold a strong hold on the division lead. Despite the daunting lead the Mets possess, Thomson’s Phillies have 111 games to work their way back into contention for their first playoff berth since 2011, with Friday’s win being the first step toward that goal.
“I still think it is early enough in the year where we can come back and we have a chance to make the postseason.”Dave Dombrowski – prior to the start of Friday’s contest
If the Phillies are to make their way back to contention, Thomson will need to crack the code that is the Phillies’ bullpen. As a pitching staff, the Phillies allowed 4.49 runs per game under Girardi, the 11th-worst in the Majors. Corey Knebel owns nine saves and three blown saves as the Phillies’ closer. Seranthony Dominguez has also proven himself worthy of a chance at the title, owning a 1.83 ERA on the year while striking out 24 batters in 19.2 innings.
Regardless of who is closing, the Phillies will need to do a better job as a unit in getting the ball from the hands of the starter to the closer without any additional trouble.
The Phillies’ offense, meanwhile, entered the Angels series as the 11th best in the league, a number certain to improve if their offensive surge continues past Friday.
While you can certainly make assumptions and draw conclusions that Joe Girardi and the Phillies did not mesh or that he was somehow holding the team back, let’s not beat around the bush here.
Joe Girardi’s firing was a wake-up call. It lit a fire under the team, making them realize that they need to get serious. The Phillies’ offense is too good. Too much work has been done to fix their bullpen. And if it took the firing of the manager for the players to realize that, so be it.
There are still 110 games remaining, the Phillies’ season is nowhere near finished.
AP Photo/Matt Slocum