The typical items in the Phillies clubhouse were joined Sunday morning by suitcases and duffel bags, the signs of a roster ready to disperse for four days to forget what were a tedious first 87 games of baseball. They will be represented at Miami’s all-star festivities by one player, their 36-year-old, seventh-inning reliever. The setbacks outweighed progress in the season’s first half, but there are 75 more games to play.
So the Phillies unleashed some anger in Sunday’s 7-1 win over San Diego. They broke a five-game losing streak with a six-homer barrage. If the next four days are a chance to cleanse, then Sunday was a time to air grievances.
“Hitting is contagious,” said catcher Cameron Rupp, who homered for the first time since June 16. “It really is. It was fun.”
The six homers generated seven runs. Diminutive shortstop Freddy Galvis hit two — one into the upper deck and another that smashed the small scoreboard that adorns the second-deck facade in right field. “The wind took it,” Galvis quipped. Nick Williams smacked his first career homer. Aaron Altherr, Odubel Herrera, and Rupp added solo shots.
The Phillies had mustered six homers in their first eight games this month.
“One of things that I feel we haven’t done is taken advantage of mistakes,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. “We don’t seem to hit mistakes out over the plate out of the ballpark. Today was an indication of what happens when pitchers make mistakes and what can happen. We’re going to stress that in the second half of the season and take advantage of that.”
It had been 13 years since the Phillies smashed six homers in a game. They were hit by Jim Thome (two), Randy Wolf (two) Jimmy Rollins, and Chase Utley.
These Phillies have lower aspirations, achieving relevancy for one. Some in the clubhouse, like Altherr and Aaron Nola and Tommy Joseph and Pat Neshek, could feel good about their first-half contributions. Mackanin entered the break with a better feeling about his rotation. The starters posted a 3.84 ERA over the last 36 games (since June 1). Nola has flashed excellence along with rookie Nick Pivetta.
“The starters, especially, have been outstanding,” Mackanin said. “The hitting has scuffled most of the first half. We’ve got competent hitters who haven’t reached their potential and hopefully in the second half they’re going to turn it on and do what we think they’re capable of doing.”
Major League Baseball is on pace to shatter the previous home-run record set in 2000. But that power surge has not yet reached Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies entered Sunday with 83 homers, and only San Francisco had clubbed fewer (73). The team’s .389 slugging percentage ranked 26th in baseball before Sunday’s assault.
A mere nine innings against Padres pitching raised that figure to .395.
“Some of us get away from our approach and we try to do too much,” Rupp said. “We’ve had a lot of situations where we haven’t been successful moving runners and getting guys in from third base with situational hitting. We have put too much pressure on ourselves. When you put too much pressure on yourself, you swing at bad pitches and aren’t ready to hit.”
The Phillies had not enjoyed a three-homer game since June 5. That was the last time Herrera homered before his sixth-inning drive to right field. Herrera, in fact, had gone 51 plate appearances without an extra-base hit.
Altherr, arguably the team’s best hitter this season, had not homered since June 27. But his .530 slugging percentage still ranks in the top 25 National League hitters. That qualifies as a bright spot among the darkness.
“This was a good way to finish the first half,” Galvis said. “I believe we have a pretty good team and we can do much better.”
It will be difficult to do worse in the season’s final 75 games.