Maybe it’s because of Ryne Sandberg, maybe it is because they have nothing left to lose, maybe it is because the rookies and veterans alike are back to having fun.
Whatever the reason, the Philadelphia Phillies are playing inspired and once again are becoming fun to watch. And at the same time, they are reminding fans that the heroics and the magic from years past might not be totally lost after all.
A series with the Colorado Rockies didn’t exactly come with the biggest expectations. Both teams were under .500, both teams were playing ugly baseball and both teams, in non-playoff seasons, are using the final months of the season to evaluate their players and blueprint for the future.
It looked like a good chance for the Phillies to win a series, which would be just their second since the end of the July All-Star break, which for the Phillies was back on the 18th. Since that time, the Phillies who were within striking distance of a playoff spot have faltered tremendously. Their record before this series was just 6-21 since the break.
And as their beloved manager Charlie Manuel was fired and the Phillies continued to dip below the .500 mark and toward the bottom of the NL East standings, the 2013 season hit its lowest point and marked a sad moment for the Phillies.
But since Manuel’s firing and Sandberg taking over, the Phillies are 4-3. It isn’t much but considering in seven games the Phillies have almost as many wins as they have since July 19, it is certainly a step in the right direction.
More than that, however, Sandberg’s managerial style has shown.
While Jimmy Rollins still somewhat questionably occupies the leadoff spot, Sandberg’s first role as manager was to speak with him about getting back to being a speed guy that hits home runs as opposed to what he has been lately — a power hitter that tries too hard and ends up with more pop ups than he should. Sandberg has also shown a short leash with his pitchers so far, with a perfect example coming through in the Phillies’ game tonight when he did not hesitate to pull Kyle Kendrick immediately after he gave up a three-run home run in the sixth.
As it turned out, this could have been the play of the game as after Kendrick, the bullpen did something they have done so few times this year, going the next four innings without giving up a run and setting the stage for the Phillies to build off some magic that started the game prior.
After splitting the first two against the Rockies, the Phillies offense, minus a Chase Utley home run, stayed quiet in support of Cliff Lee who is still looking for his first win of the second half. But surprising to almost all, the Phillies managed an improbable ninth inning comeback behind the heroics of none other than Michael Young, who has three of the Phillies 11 walk-offs this season.
But the magic didn’t end there as with two outs and Rollins on third after a key stolen base, Young hit a dribbler that went past the pitcher and under the glove of the shortstop to tie the game. And with the walk-off king on base, Domonic Brown brought him home to score the game-winning run.
As broadcaster Tom McCarthy said, “those never get old.”
It is true, especially in a season like this that those moments really never get old. With turmoil in the coaching staff and a vision that is only starting to become clear, the Phillies needed this for themselves and for the fans.
It is more than just the walk-offs though. The Phillies truly are playing inspired baseball under Sandberg as it seems the managerial change is doing everyone in the clubhouse some good.
Whatever it is, just like back in 2007 and 2008, this team is starting to become fun to watch again. They have a good balance of veterans and youngsters right now and if it all comes together, not only will this team be fun to watch in the future, but they might be able to be competitive as well.