ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Bright lasers danced across the ceiling and techno music bumped off the walls. The Phillies were celebrating yet another win — a 10-4 victory Sunday afternoon to sweep the Rays — and the visitors’ clubhouse at Tropicana Field felt more like a nightclub than a bland room of locker stalls.
It was the Phillies’ eighth win in the last nine games and they have outscored their opponents by 40 runs over that stretch. They have won three straight series and have consecutive sweeps. The young Phillies are finding ways to win as they move away from the disarray that started their season. And each victory — both home and away — ends with a party.
“We’re doing a bunch of dancing and we have the lights going after we win,” Scott Kingery said. “It’s pretty fun after we win. We’ve been doing a lot of that lately, so we’re having fun.”
Kingery started the party with a three-run double in the third inning. He drove in five runs this weekend and extended his hitting streak to six games. Kingery has seven doubles in his first 13 major-league games. His double off the center-field wall came on the 31st pitch of the inning, as the six previous batters worked Rays lefthander Ryan Yarbrough into exhaustion.
No team averages more pitches per plate appearance than the Phillies; they extend at-bats in search of a pitcher’s mistake. Kingery fouled off three pitchers before the mistake — a grooved fastball — came his way. Kingery did not miss.
“The more pitches you make a pitcher throw in an inning, the more tired he’s going to get,” Kingery said. “I’m not a pitcher, so I don’t know, but I’m assuming that the mistakes start to show up as you get more tired and you’ve thrown a lot of pitches and are just trying to get an out. Sometimes mistakes show up, and, as a team we do a great job of grinding that pitcher down and just making them throw pitches and battling.”
Manager Gabe Kapler relied on his bullpen for the final five innings after he quickly pulled an inefficient Ben Lively. Hoby Milner, Yacksel Rios, Luis Garcia, Adam Morgan, and Edubray Ramos pieced together 15 outs. Kapler could lean on his bullpen, knowing Aaron Nola should provide length on Monday in Atlanta. The relievers delivered.
Aaron Altherr kept the Phillies ahead with a diving catch to end the sixth. He charged in on Denard Span’s line drive to right and nabbed it with a full extension. The catch likely saved two runs. Altherr then broke the game open with a three-run homer in the eighth as he snapped an 0-for-14 stretch. The Phillies scored five times in the eighth. Maikel Franco singled in two runs when his bases-loaded grounder looked like a double play before it zipped past third baseman Matt Duffy. Everything seemed to go the Phillies’ way.
“It’s fun winning here,” Lively said. “Everyone is pumped up and it’s going to be a good plane ride.”
The speaker and LED lights were packed away to fly with the team to Atlanta. The Phillies bring their own party supplies to each ballpark. It has been just two weeks since the Phillies flew out of Atlanta after a nightmarish start to the Kapler era. A different team, a winning team, was flying in on Sunday night.
But first, the speaker rocked one last tune: an instrumental song by a French DJ. A cast of these young Phillies used the song as an anthem two seasons ago, when they raced to a double-A division title. These postgame raves started in the minor leagues. And now those players were bobbing to the same tune in a major-league clubhouse. For the Phillies, this is what winning sounds like. Now they just have to keep the music playing.
“Those guys know how to keep it light,” Kapler said. “I think there are plenty of guys smiling in our clubhouse right now in part because they’ve made it an intention to have fun. I think it’s important in baseball, because there’s so much stress and so much pressure and so much on the line each night to pick your times to indulge and have a great time, and these guys know how to do that.”