MILWAUKEE - The blank stares and general looks of uncertainty were replaced by more than a few did-that-really-just-happen grins. The sounds of silence were gone, too.
Coolio played on the speakers in the victorious visiting clubhouse at Miller Park.
It wasn’t anything like the celebration in the same room eight Octobers ago, when some of the same players clinched the franchise’s first playoff series victory in 15 years. But it was certainly different than the vibe the Phillies had been able to shake for the better part of the last month, too.
"It’s crazy," Jimmy Rollins said of the game of baseball, following Thursday’s improbable 9-1 victory that capped an improbable four-game series sweep. "You can’t explain it. You just hope it’s good-crazy and not bad-crazy. We’ve been a lot of bad-crazy."
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The matinee in Milwaukee that finished off a 10-game, three-city road trip was good-crazy, at least if you were making that judgement through the eyes of anyone on the visiting team and not Matt Garza.
Because on Thursday afternoon, the Phillies looked like the team that had failed to score more than two runs in 35 of their first 91 games. They looked like a team that might not get a hit, actually, as Garza took a no-hitter into the seventh inning.
But in a turn of events that could only qualify as slightly more insane than expecting the last-place Phillies to pull off a four-game sweep over the Brewers, the team with the best record in the National League, the Phillies won the game in a blowout.
Rollins ended Garza’s no-hit bid with a single to lead off the seventh and the Phils chased Garza in a wild eighth en route to a rout. Rollins highlighted the eighth-inning rally with a two-out, go-ahead single, his second hit in as many innings.
"It was a good way to end the road trip, unlike the last road trip that started out great and ended bad - and continued," Rollins said, referring to the Phillies winning a season-high five straight in Atlanta and St. Louis before falling off the rails in their last two games at Busch Stadium setting the stage for their worst two-week stretch of the season. "Hopefully we can reverse that, get these next three games, go to the All-Star break and see where we are coming out."
The Phillies entered Milwaukee having lost 9 of 10 and 13 of their last 16 and exited with their first four-game sweep since Sept. 1, 2011 at Cincinnati. It was their first four-game sweep ever in Milwaukee.
Remarkably, a 10-game road trip that began with five losses in six games in Miami and Pittsburgh ended with the Phillies breaking even (5-5). Even with the spirited play in Milwaukee, however, the Phils returned home farther back in the National League East standings than when they left.
Although no one is really paying attention to the standings anymore, the Phillies are attempting to play out the final 70 games that remain on the schedule with a little bit of pride intact.
"I feel better the last four games, no question about it," manager Ryne Sandberg said of the road trip. "That's something we can build on. To see the offense come alive in a four-game series against good pitching, it's a step in the right direction."
On Thursday, Garza was doing a fairly impressive job of sapping any momentum and confidence the Phillies had gained in the previous three days. He retired 13 straight batters to begin the afternoon.
Marlon Byrd ended Garza’s run of perfection with a one-out walk in the fifth. Garza responded by sending down each of the next five batters he faced, taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning.
"He was working the corners real well, worked both sides of the plate," Sandberg said. "He was pretty sharp."
David Buchanan was impressive in his own right, however. In his 10th big league start, Buchanan matched zeroes with Garza until Carlos Gomez led off the sixth with a home run.
Gomez paraded around the bases in celebration. Buchanan wasn’t shaken, though.
The rookie righthander kept plugging away and pumped his fist when Rollins and Chase Utley easily turned a double play to end the seventh, keeping a 1-0 deficit intact.
"I was telling myself if you can get a ground ball here you can get out of this inning," Buchanan said. "You had Garza coming up and then the top of the lineup, so I was going to try to get out of it before it got out of hand, so that was a big double play right there."
The Phillies rewarded Buchanan almost immediately.
His battery partner, catcher Cameron Rupp, crushed a one-out double into the right field corner. Cesar Hernandez, pinch hitting for Buchanan, worked a walk.
After Tony Gwynn moved the runners over on a ground out to third, and Milwaukee lifted Garza in favor of lefthanded reliever Will Smith, the two-out explosion was on.
Rollins hit a go-ahead, two-run single to left. Utley walked. Howard hit a ground-rule double. Byrd walked (intentionally). Cody Asche hit a ground-rule double. Will Smith exited. Brandon Kintzler entered. Domonic Brown hit a two-run single. Ben Revere, who pinch ran for Rupp earlier in the inning, also singled.
After being no-hit for six innings, the Phillies scored seven runs on seven hits in the eighth. It was the most runs they scored in a single inning since putting up seven in the third inning on July 19, 2013 at Citi Field.
"We had 10 hits in the last three innings," Sandberg said. "It just seemed to snowball. Good at bats. Quality at bats. It just snowballed and got contagious there in a hurry. Everybody contributed."
Howard added a two-run home run in the ninth.
The offensive eruption an inning earlier made Buchanan a deserving winner. Buchanan collected his fifth victory of the season by holding Milwaukee to one run on four hits, while striking out five and walking one in seven innings.
"I though he was real confident, aggressive," Sandberg said.
The Phils will hope to parlay that confidence beginning tomorrow, when they close out the season’s first half with the start of a three-game series against another first-place team, the Washington Nationals. Maybe they can do some damage to their current 9 1/2 game deficit in the division.
Crazier things have happened.
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