PHILS INSIDER

Phillies turnaround started with something Joe Girardi won't talk about

PHILS INSIDER

Zach Eflin came through huge for Joe Girardi in Saturday's 4-1 win over the Atlanta Braves.

Then he threw him under the bus. So to speak.

Girardi, like many managers, will have a team meeting now and then, you know, when he feels like his players need to hear something, be it soothing or tough, as a group.

But Girardi isn't one to talk about those team powwows. He considers them private and doesn't believe they need to be written about or talked about by nosy reporters. When Girardi has a team meeting, he won't confirm it or acknowledge it, much less offer insights about what went on behind closed doors.

The Phillies won their fifth straight game behind Eflin's seven innings of one-run ball and Rhys Hoskins' three-run homer Saturday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park.

The winning streak, which has put the Phillies at the .500 mark and seemingly turned around their season, started last Sunday night in Atlanta, the day after the Phils blew a late lead, squandering a Zack Wheeler gem, and lost for the fifth straight time.

That loss was a turning point for the Phils.

"After that game, Joe came in and had a conversation with us," Eflin revealed. "It was time to start playing good baseball. We've kind of gotten into the best rhythm we can throughout this past week and it's starting to show. We're excited to keep it going, to be competitive and see what the season holds for us."

Hoskins expounded on last Saturday night's team meeting.

 

"It was quick, 15 seconds, maybe," he said. "He really just told us to keep believing in ourselves, this is going to turn, that there's too many good players in here for it not to turn, and, sure enough, it did.

"Hearing that from someone who's seen thousands of baseball games and to know that he thinks we have the talent to be better than our record obviously instilled a ton of confidence in us."

Girardi's little meeting might explain the urgency that Bryce Harper displayed in his postgame chat with reporters after last Saturday's loss. Harper threw down the gauntlet and said it was time to play better. He said the season was shrinking on the Phillies and they "needed to win nine of 10 games" before it was too late. It all sounded a little fantasyland at the time, but now the Phils have won five straight and are just two games out of first place in the NL East with 32 left.

"As a team leader, someone who has won and been in playoff races, Bryce knows what it takes," Hoskins said. "He's very easy to follow. He plays with his hair on fire and if you try to match his intensity each night and day it'll put you in a good position to win. We'll continue to follow his lead and hopefully the wins keep coming."

Eflin was brilliant. He walked none and struck out eight, five of them swinging at a vanishing curveball that he's throwing with more authority this year.

Hoskins crushed two balls to center field, one off the wall, one way over it for a three-run bomb. After a slow start, he continues to heat up and his power stroke has come along as he's used the middle of the field more. In his last 18 games, he has five doubles, four homers and 12 RBIs. What a difference he'd make if he can continue to complement Harper and J.T. Realmuto as the big producers in the lineup.

"Sometimes I think Rhys gets a little frustrated by his offensive numbers, but we love what he's doing," Girardi said. "Now he's starting to produce runs, but he's been on base a ton all season and that has set it up for Harp and J.T., so Rhys has been a huge part of our offense. His at-bats have been great, and he makes pitchers work, so we're really pleased with what he's doing."

Even the Phillies' bullpen is coming around. They don't win Saturday night's 11-inning affair without those five scoreless innings that came after the Braves tied the game. 

On Sunday night, the Phils will look to sweep the first-place Braves, pull to within a game in the NL East race and go over .500 for the first time this season.

It's a surge that started with a painful loss in Atlanta last Saturday night and a team meeting that Joe Girardi will never talk about.

"Last Saturday, that was about as bad as it got," Girardi said. "The guys said enough is enough and they've turned it around.

 

"We've seen some strange things happen this year and we've had some tough luck. But, for me, if guys are playing hard and they're prepared, they're going to have success over time and that's what we're seeing now."