The Phillies' first homestand out of the All-Star break was not a good one.
But it ended with something good.
A much-needed win. A much-needed series victory. A little dose of momentum heading into a four-game series at Pittsburgh, where a strong showing is imperative.
The Phils wrapped up their six-game homestand with a 7-2 win over the Atlanta Braves at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday afternoon. The recipe for victory included some timely hitting, the ability to capitalize on some shaky defense from the Braves, a quality start from Kyle Gibson and good work from the bullpen.
Swept by the Chicago Cubs to open the homestand, the Phillies finished it 2-4. Wednesday's win left them heading to Pittsburgh no worse than a half-game behind St. Louis for control of the third and final NL wild spot at 51-47 overall.
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"Obviously, that Cubs series didn't go like we planned," J.T. Realmuto said. "To come out here and win this series is huge."
The Pirates are 18 games under .500 and about to be trade deadline sellers once again. They have lost eight of their last 10 games. This is a series the Phillies need to win. Zack Wheeler kicks it off Thursday night.
"I think we just go in there and play our game, make sure we're not taking anybody lightly," manager Rob Thomson said. "Don't take anything for granted. You go in there, play your game. Just like today, you get out in front, put your foot on the pedal and run over people."
The Phillies go into Pittsburgh with a couple of legit hot bats.
Alec Bohm had a pair of RBI hits Wednesday and has hit in 12 straight games and 21 of his last 22.
Realmuto has also continued a productive streak that started before the All-Star break. He had a huge two-run single in the Phillies' five-run fifth Wednesday afternoon.
That five-run fifth came against Braves starter Charlie Morton after the teams had played scoreless ball through 4½ innings. Gibson delivered six innings of two-run ball for the win and Connor Brogdon, Brad Hand and Andrew Bellatti combined on three scoreless innings to close it out.
The Phillies' decisive rally in the bottom of the fifth came after Gibson threw just four pitches in the top of the inning, forcing Morton back to the mound with little time to catch his breath between innings. The Phillies capitalized. The uprising included strong contributions from two young players who continue to improve steadily. Bryson Stott opened the frame by drawing a walk. He raced all the way to third base on an errant pickoff by Morton and scored on a base hit to left by Bohm.
The Braves made a second error in the inning and the Phillies kept putting runs on the board -- an RBI single by Odubel Herrera, a sacrifice fly by Kyle Schwarber, and Realmuto's two-run single.
Since June 24, a span of 22 games, Bohm is hitting .420 (34 for 81) with 14 RBIs.
He just looks like a confident hitter.
"I've been seeing that for a while," Thomson said. "He's swinging the bat with authority."
Realmuto, meanwhile, is hitting .438 (14 for 32) over his last nine games.
"Hitting is a game of confidence and I'm feeling a lot more confident than I was earlier in the season," Realmuto said.
He credited his consistent preparation and work with hitting coach Kevin Long for the improved confidence. Realmuto is feeling so good at the plate that he did not want a rest day Wednesday. Starting catchers often get a rest when their teams play a day game after a night game.
"This was an important series," Realmuto said. "I wanted to be out there after the Cubs series. It was really important for us to pick up some momentum."
Now, it's off to Pittsburgh with Tuesday's trade deadline looming. The Phils are buyers. President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski will add something as this team looks to break a 10-year postseason drought.
"We feel like we can compete with anyone," Realmuto said. "We believe in Dave."