What had the makings of being a terrible homestand ended up OK -- not great, but OK -- for the Phillies on Sunday afternoon.
For the second game in a row, they put a couple of early runs on the board en route to a 7-4 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks at Citizens Bank Park.
Bright sign: The Phillies have scored seven runs in four consecutive games. All of them were unearned in one of the games, but the offense is warming, nonetheless. Since the start of July, the Phils are 21-3 when they score five or more runs in a game. They are 8-20 when they score four or less in that timeframe.
"I think our pitching has been pretty good," manager Joe Girardi said. "The key there is five runs. if we can do that ... consistent offense is a big thing for us."
After losing the first three games of the homestand -- two to Tampa Bay and one to Arizona -- the Phils came back to beat the Diamondbacks three straight to finish the homestand at 3-3. The series win was their first since the first week of August when they swept the Mets on their way to briefly capturing first place in the NL East.
It wasn't the winning homestand that Girardi said his club needed back before it began, but it did allow the Phillies to remain within shouting distance of first-place Atlanta with 32 games to play. The Phils trail the Braves by 4½.
"It ended a lot better than the way it started out," Girardi said of the homestand. "We've started to play better and hopefully it can continue as we move into this road trip."
The Phils play their next nine at Washington, Miami and Milwaukee.
Ranger Suarez pitched 5⅓ innings Sunday and got the win. He has a 2.03 ERA in six starts and the Phils are 4-2 in those games.
Freddy Galvis started at shortstop and drove in three of the Phillies' seven runs with a sacrifice fly in the first inning and a two-out single in the fifth.
J.T. Realmuto made his first start of the season at first base. He drew a walk in the first inning, moved up on a sacrifice bunt by Bryce Harper -- yes, he did -- and scored a run. However, Realmuto exited the game before the start of the sixth inning. He turned his left ankle taking a swing in the fifth inning. Girardi said he was day to day.
Realmuto is already playing with a sore shoulder and the Phillies are already playing without Rhys Hoskins (and likely Zach Eflin) for the rest of the season. Losing Realmuto would be another huge blow to the club. The Phils completed the game with just one healthy catcher, rookie Rafael Marchan. Andrew Knapp is on the COVID-related injured list for at least eight more days. The Phils have no other catchers on the 40-man roster. Suddenly, they are very thin and vulnerable at the position.
There could also be a health question in the bullpen. Archie Bradley was called on to protect a three-run lead in the eighth inning. He got the first two outs then allowed four straight batters to reach base (three hits and a walk) and two runs as Arizona made it a one-run game.
Hector Neris had to come on for a third day in a row and get out of the inning.
Bradley had not pitched since Tuesday because of a sore shoulder. His fastball topped out at 94 mph, but his command was poor as 11 of his 24 pitches were balls. There could be something to watch there, though Girardi said Bradley was healthy.
The Phillies built their lead back to three with the help of back-to-back triples by Marchan and Travis Jankowski in the bottom of the eighth. That gave Ian Kennedy some breathing room for a quick save.
It's amazing what runs can do for a pitcher.
Suarez took the mound with a 2-0 lead.
"It's definitely good when you look at the scoreboard and see you have a lead," he said. "It gives you more confidence to attack hitters and throw your pitches. It's really, really good when we go ahead early in the game."
Zack Wheeler hopes for the same courtesy Monday night in Washington.
For the last few seasons, the road has not been kind to the Phillies. They must flip the script on this trip. They are 27-36 on the road this season as opposed to 39-28 at home.
Of the team's final 32 games, 18 will be played on the road and 14 at home.