It’s impossible to ignore.
Twelve days ago, the Phillies suffered a fifth straight defeat to fall to 9-14.
The 60-game sprint was speeding by and the Phillies seemed stranded in the breakdown lane.
Bryce Harper summed up the team’s desperation when he said the Phils needed to do something eye-popping, like “win nine of 10 games” to save their season.
Wonder if Harper has any advice on the next big lottery drawing. With a win Thursday, his comment will become prophecy.
The Phils won for the eighth time in nine games Wednesday night when they blanked the Washington Nationals, 3-0, at Citizens Bank Park.
Reserve Neil Walker was the hitting star and Zack Wheeler pitched a gem as the Phillies registered back-to-back shutouts for the first time since April 2016.
The surging Phillies are 17-15.
They have turned things around, just like Dr. Harper ordered.
“I’ve heard it a number of times,” manager Joe Girardi said of Harper’s comment. “Hopefully we can continue to win.”
While some – insert raised-hand emoji – thought Harper’s comment was crazy, especially with the way the bullpen was pitching, others thought winning nine of 10 was quite possible. Wheeler was one of those guys.
“I saw the comment,” he said. “And I think we're very capable of it. I think that's shown over the past, you know, however many games now.
“I think we all just have our head down and we know what's expected of us and what we're capable of. Now we're on a little streak and hopefully we can carry that into tomorrow and then into New York.”
The Phils are 5-0 against the defending World Series champion Nationals. They will go for a four-game sweep on Thursday before heading to New York for a series with the Mets. Zach Eflin, Thursday's starting pitcher, has his work cut out for him following up the work of Aaron Nola and Wheeler. That duo has allowed just five hits over 14 2/3 scoreless innings the last two nights.
Nola has a 2.45 ERA in seven starts this season. Wheeler has a 2.20 ERA in seven starts.
“It's great to have a combination like that,” Girardi said. “I think every manager wants combinations like that. These guys have been really impressive.”
If the season were to end today, the Phillies would be in the postseason for the first time since 2011. Nola and Wheeler in Games 1 and 2 of a best-of-three series might not be Johnson and Schilling circa 2001, but it wouldn’t be too bad, either.
“I'm not even going to let you ask that question,” said Girardi, who isn’t about to count a playoff chicken, er, berth, before it has hatched.
Wheeler went 6 2/3 innings and out-pitched three-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer. He got all the offense he needed in the fourth inning when Walker drove in two runs with a single. Walker got the start at first base because Girardi held out red-hot Rhys Hoskins against Scherzer. Hoskins is 0 for 17 with 10 strikeouts against Scherzer. Walker came into the game 7 for 32 with three homers against Scherzer. He added three singles in this game. Did Girardi thank Walker for making him look good?
“No, but I probably should,” he said.
Walker has been in the majors for 10 seasons and his dad, Tom, pitched in the majors. So, he’s seen a few teams in his day. He likes this Phillies club a lot.
“Offensively, it's probably the deepest team I've ever been on,” he said. “And that's playing on a 2018 Yankees team and some good Mets and Pirates teams. It seems like every single night somebody else is contributing. It's not easy to get through this lineup.
“Our starting pitching is impressive across the board and over the past 10 days we've bolstered our bullpen with guys that can get a lot of outs.
“We feel really confident with what we're doing right now and we're on a good roll and hope it continues.”