Baseball is a game most accurately measured over the long haul, not in short snippets. So we probably won’t know for a couple of weeks or more exactly what impact Charlie Manuel is having on the Phillies’ offense.
But with nothing but a short snippet to work with thus far, we can definitely say this:
So far, so great.
Take it from sizzling J.T. Realmuto.
“Of course, Charlie's had an impact,” Realmuto said after the Phillies slugged their way past the San Diego Padres, 8-4, at Citizens Bank Park on Friday night.
“Just having him in the dugout, being able to walk by him and have him say something as simple as, ‘Hey, stay short.’ He's a guy that everybody in this clubhouse looks up to so we're definitely glad to have him.”
The Phillies have matched a season-high with four straight wins, all on this homestand, and all coinciding with the dismissal of hitting coach John Mallee and the insertion of Manuel into that role.
Officially, Manuel has been in the dugout for three games. In those three games, the Phils have pounded out 35 hits, including seven homers and eight doubles, and scored 26 runs.
Not bad for a club that went 2-5 on its most recent road trip, scored one or zero runs in three of the five losses and was the victim of a one-hitter and a three-hitter.
“There’s a lot of confidence and looseness in our at-bats,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “We’re not forcing it right now. There’s not a whole lot of pressing going on. I think guys are just in an easy state of mind.”
How much of that has to do with Manuel’s arrival?
“I think Charlie has done a great job of keeping it loose,” Kapler said. “He’s great to talk to. He’s got an incredible demeanor. It’s always nice to look over and see him in the dugout with us. He’s a real calming presence and I think he’s only had a positive impact.”
The Phils had 12 hits, including homers by Realmuto, Bryce Harper and Roman Quinn, in Friday’s night win. The victory put the Phils in a tie with the Chicago Cubs for the second NL wild card spot. Both teams are 64-58. The Phillies took three from the Cubs earlier this week, capped by Thursday night’s wild 7-5 win in which Harper clubbed a game-winning grand slam in the bottom of the ninth.
Harper hit a three-run homer to put the game out of reach Friday night. He has seven homers and 17 RBIs over his last nine games. Harper is up to 90 RBIs, putting him in the top 10 in the NL.
“It's a lot of fun to watch from this side,” Realmuto said. “I've seen it a lot from the other side (when he was with the Marlins) in recent years. When Bryce gets hot, he's one of the most exciting players to watch, as you guys are seeing right now.
“These last four nights have been a ton of fun, really. Kind of putting our tough stretch behind us and going out there, we have a lot more confidence than we've had in the past couple weeks so it makes for more fun baseball and that's when you win. You go out there and you have fun, let loose a little bit, you enjoy the crowd. Obviously, they're into it. They've been a blast for us the last four games so we're just riding that emotion, just got to keep going.”
Realmuto is as hot as Harper. He had a homer, a double and a single and is hitting .313 (51 for 163) with 16 doubles, 8 homers and 29 RBIs over his last 44 games.
“We’ve talked about our offense and how when guys clicked together it could be the catalyst to win a lot of baseball games,” Kapler said. “And I think we're seeing that Bryce and J.T. can carry us, but we’re also getting contributions up and down the lineup.”
If Rhys Hoskins can get going when he returns to the lineup — he did not start because of a sore hand Friday night, but will be ready to start Saturday — the Phillies could have three hot hitters. And they could use even more than that because if they’re going to make a run over the final 40 games, they will need to out-hit other clubs. The pitching is just too suspect to carry this team.
Nonetheless, the Phillies got a good start from Vince Velasquez on Friday night. He pitched shutout ball through the first five innings before being bitten by the dreaded third-time-through-the-lineup bug.
Velasquez needs to continue to deliver good starts to keep the Phillies in this thing. Ditto for the rest of the rotation. Zach Eflin returns to the rotation on Saturday. He has stretches where he pitched well for a month. The Phillies could certainly use one right now.
“What we need is quality starts,” Kapler said. “We’re not looking for eight innings and zeroes every night. What we’re looking for is to be in games. If we’re in games, we have the kind of offense that can win those games, so we just want very competitive starts from our starters. We feel confident that Zach can help us compete (Saturday night).”
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