MILWAUKEE — A couple of hours before Thursday’s series finale against the Milwaukee Brewers, Bryce Harper was asked about the Phillies’ resurgence and the reasons for it.
It wasn’t the first time someone had mentioned the topic to Harper in the previous few minutes.
“I just got a text from one of my buddies asking the same thing,” he said with a laugh.
Harper reached for his phone, scrolled through his texts and started reading.
“As I told my buddy, it’s just a different vibe right now,” he said. “We’re playing our asses off. It is what it is, you know?
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“We played a heck of a series against the Angels and we’ve won the first two against a good Brewers team that’s in first place in their division. We’re facing Corbin Burnes today. If we can get this bonus game and sweep, it would be unbelievable going home to face Arizona.”
The Phillies got the bonus game. They won the series finale, 8-3, to register their second straight sweep. Harper made a significant contribution with his 15th homer, a 425-foot blast to center against reliever Brad Boxberger to give the Phils a two-run lead in the top of the seventh.
The surging Phillies have won seven in a row to get back to a game under .500 at 28-29.
And, of course, they are 6-0 under new skipper Rob Thomson, who took over for Joe Girardi when the team was 22-29 last Friday.
Did Girardi’s firing set the Phillies straight? Is Thomson the reason for this turnaround?
“We needed to get going,” Harper said. “Everybody knew that. It’s just a different vibe. I think we’re just playing good ball right now.”
Thomson is the first to begin his big-league managerial career with six straight wins since Clint Hurdle did the same after taking over for Buddy Bell in Colorado in 2002. Boston’s Joe Morgan started off 12-0 after taking over for John McNamara in 1988.
More locally, Thomson is closing in on Pat Moran, skipper of the 1915 NL Champion Phillies. He started his career 8-0 and ended up in the World Series that year. The Phils lost that series to the Red Sox, whose roster featured a 21-year-old pitcher named Babe Ruth.
During their seven-game winning streak, the Phils have bashed 18 home runs and outscored opponents, 53-19. Harper has three homers in the last four games and five in his six games this month. Kyle Schwarber has four homers during the seven-game winning streak. He had a two-run homer in the eighth inning Thursday.
It looked like Phillies hitters might be in for a long day when Burnes, the reigning NL Cy Young winner, opened the game with three strikeouts. Burnes threw 16 pitches to Schwarber, Rhys Hoskins and Harper and got seven swings and misses. He got eight more swings and misses in the second inning but control issues surfaced. He walked three and allowed a hit but limited the damage to just a run when he struck out Schwarber for the third out to leave the bases loaded.
The Phils had a runner in scoring position with no outs in the third and couldn’t get him home. In the fourth, they wasted a leadoff triple by Didi Gregorius on their way to opening the game 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position.
Phillies starter Zach Eflin had his own command issues. He allowed a first-inning homer to Willy Adames and ran a high pitch count while walking three and hitting a batter. He lasted just four innings but held the Brewers to a run and exited the game with a lead after his mates got to Burnes for a couple of runs in the fifth.
The inning started with Burnes ringing up Schwarber for a third time in as many at-bats, but the Phils’ leadoff man reached base on a passed ball charged to catcher Victor Caratini. Hoskins followed with a single and Nick Castellanos chased Burnes with a single to load the bases. J.T. Realmuto and Gregorius drove home the runs with a sacrifice fly and a double against reliever Miguel Sanchez as the Phils took a 3-1 lead.
Connor Brogdon gave up a homer to Hunter Renfroe as the Brewers made it a one-run game in the sixth, but Harper increased the lead to two with his seventh-inning homer and the Phils were on their way.
The Phillies are 7-0 in June. They return home to Citizens Bank Park, where they are 15-15 this season, for a six-game homestand against Arizona and Miami beginning Friday night. Kyle Gibson (3-2, 4.40) will face right-hander Zac Gallen (4-1, 2.40) in the opener Friday night. Gallen, a South Jersey native and Bishop Eustace grad, ranks seventh in the NL in ERA.
Zack Wheeler will oppose Madison Bumgarner on Saturday.