CINCINNATI — You have to go back 20 years to find a night when the Phillies turned on the power like this.
Back then, the names were Rico Brogna, Kevin Sefcik, Bobby Estalella and Marlon Anderson. That quartet combined to set a team record with seven home runs in a victory over the New York Mets on Sept. 8, 1998, at Veterans Stadium.
All these years later, the names were Rhys Hoskins, Maikel Franco, Nick Williams and Carlos Santana. Like their red-pinstriped cousins from two decades ago, this foursome combined to hit seven home runs on Thursday night. The power display led a rousing 9-4 win over the Cincinnati Reds and gave rookie lefty Ranger Suarez a win in his big-league debut (see first take). The Phils are a season-high 14 games over .500 and 2½ games up on Atlanta for first place in the NL East.
They are on a roll.
“I think we’re just having a ton of fun,” Williams said. “It feels like we’re kids at recess right now. It’s been a good run.”
Williams was one of three Phillies to hit a pair of home runs Thursday night. Hoskins and Franco also hit a pair. All six of those homers were solo shots. Carlos Santana belted a two-run shot in the top of the first as the Phillies built a 3-0 lead.
After a loss in Miami on the day before the All-Star break, manager Gabe Kapler predicted the team’s power would improve in the second half. So far, he’s been right. The Phils have hit 20 homers in seven games since the All-Star break. They are 5-2 over that span, averaging 6.7 runs per game.
“I’ve talked about the talent of our team, the true talent, and not getting caught up in these two-week stretches,” Kapler said. “So whenever our offense is struggling for a couple of weeks, or our bullpen is struggling for a couple of weeks, we try to remember the true talent of our club and the true talent of our club is what is showing right now.
“It's the ability to look over pitches, having longer at-bats, driving the baseball into the gaps, over the fence and out of the ballpark, and then a bullpen that has been nothing short of extraordinary. So it’s the talent we were depending on.”
In addition to big offense, the Phils got four more scoreless innings from the bullpen. It has been the best in baseball in July with a 2.32 ERA.
The Phillies came into Thursday night’s game on an emotional high after taking two of three from the Los Angeles Dodgers at home. Before the team’s flight to Cincinnati, de facto team captain Rhys Hoskins sent out a tweet that said, "Start believin'" — and it included a hashtag that said, “Be Bold,” a reference to the season motto that was put in place by Kapler over the winter.
“I saw that tweet and I saw the hashtag,” Kapler said. “What that told me is that the clubhouse, because Rhys is just a representation of the clubhouse, is especially confident. They believe. The field staff has continued to believe and I think the city of Philadelphia is definitely beginning to believe, as well.”
Hoskins has six homers and three doubles in his last six games. His confidence is clearly visible. You can see it in his swing. It is easy and smooth. When Hoskins produces, the Phillies are a different team, a winning team, a team filled with confidence.
You can see it in his tweet.
“The Dodgers are a really good team, one of the best in the NL,” said Hoskins, explaining the timing of his tweet. “We had a chance to win all three of those games at home. What a great atmosphere. It was intense baseball. It was fun. As competitors, that’s what you hope for, especially late in the year. It’s getting into August. It’s meaningful baseball. We’re a confident bunch and I think we’re showing it.
“The Dodgers have good pitching and we were able to put some runs on them all series. Obviously, that was able to carry over into tonight.”
Any pitcher would be happy to get nine runs of support. Suarez was especially thrilled. He survived a pair of home runs and pitched into the sixth inning. It was just what the Phillies were looking for in a spot start.
Suarez, 22, has a bright future. Nonetheless, he was sent back to Triple A after the game. The Phillies will add a player — Roman Quinn? Dylan Cozens? — for Friday night’s game. Nick Pivetta will be on the mound.
Will the power stay on?
Will the fun continue?
Will the confidence keep growing?
Stay tuned. These Phillies are on a roll.