WASHINGTON — The Phillies’ newest position player had the game of his life in Sunday’s blowout victory, while two of their high-priced veterans are warming up.
Drew Ellis and Kyle Schwarber each hit two home runs and JT Realmuto went deep for the second straight game in an 11-3 win over the Nationals.
The Phillies (27-32) took two in a row this weekend for a series of wins over the Nats and finished their tour of the NL East with a 4-6 record.
They scored 22 runs in the three games in Washington after mustering just three in the previous three-game sweep in New York.
“There are going to be times when you walk into somebody’s ballpark and get swept, so that’s huge for us, to be able to bounce back,” manager Rob Thomson said.
The Phils need this to be the start of something big for Schwarber and Realmuto, who slumped through most of April and May. Schwarber hit three-run home runs in the sixth and ninth innings. Realmuto homered to center in his first at-bat, a day after snapping out of a 43-3 slump with a double and a solo homer.
“I felt like we did a really good job this weekend on the offensive end,” Schwarber said. “Obviously, it’s not always going to be that easy when we’re driving in eight runs, but yesterday you saw when we drove in four against a pretty good pitcher (Mackenzie Gore), we kept pushing ourselves and we kept going. Hopefully we can continue that momentum.”
Ellis homered for the first time as a Phillie to give his new team a fourth inning lead. He added a two-run homer in the seventh when the Phillies turned it into a laugh.
He started at third base over Edmundo Sosa. It was an unexpected choice with outfielder Suárez, who gets a lot of ground balls to the left side on the mound. Thomson has liked the quality of Ellis’ plate appearances, so the skipper ran with him in the series finale.
“Everyone on the minor league side recommended him, (GM) Sam Fuld and the Lehigh Valley staff,” Thomson said. “They said he has great focus and he has it: very calm, short shot, doesn’t panic, doesn’t chase. It’s a good at-bat.
“It makes him feel comfortable with the club and shows his teammates that he can do something, which he can do. He has also played good defense.”
Ellis was on his couch less than two months ago, wondering if his big league career was over yet. He thought the Independent Ball could be the next step.
“I was talking to my agent and I said, ‘Is this it?'” he recalled this week. “To be in this position is a real blessing, I’m super grateful.”
He could have bought himself an extended stay in the majors.
Ellis went 3-for-3 with the two bombs, an infield single and two walks. He is the first Phillie since Ryan Howard in July 2007 to go 3-for-3 or more with multiple home runs and walks in a game.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “To be able to put on a major league uniform again is really special. I can’t thank the people who supported me enough. I just want to ride it and have fun. I have talked to Nick (Castellanos) quite a bit and he has helped me, just saying that he should hold this wave for as long as possible”.
The utility right-handed hitter reached base in eight of 14 plate appearances with the Phillies after posting a 1.009 OPS in 92 plate appearances split between Double-A and Triple-A. He was called up Thursday morning when the Phillies fielded Alec Bohm is on the disabled list with a hamstring strain.
Schwarber led off the game with a two-out, three-run home run in the sixth. The Nationals dumped starter Trevor Williams for right-handed reliever Andrés Machado and Schwarber smashed a 97-mph sinker in the right-field seats. He would have faced a left-handed reliever if the Phillies had been playing any of the other 28 major league teams. The Nationals, for whatever reason, don’t have a single lefty in their bullpen. He allowed Thomson to stack his lefties on top of the lineup in Game 1 of the series and certainly eases the late innings of a close game.
“The most important thing is to be able to have the quality at bat,” he said. “If you’re not going to hit, you have to find a way on base. The quality at-bats have been there and I’ve been able to get the quality of contact back to where I want it to be.”
Schwarber’s first three-run homer was the Phillies’ first since Bohm’s on April 10, snapping a drought of 220 plate appearances with no home runs with two men on base. He did it again three innings later. Law of averages.
He had a productive weekend at the top of the lineup after going hitless in 19 plate appearances as a leadoff hitter when Thomson tried him out there the first week of May.
“When he walks to the plate in the first inning, that pitcher who starts the game has to be conscious and alive,” Thomson said. “He feels comfortable there, so for now, that’s where we’ll be.”
Suárez maneuvered around traffic early to allow one run in seven innings. He allowed one hit in six of his seven innings, but the Nationals put multiple men on base just twice. Suárez received some handshakes after the fifth inning and it looked like his afternoon would soon be over, but he came out again and retired the 1-2-3 team in the sixth inning, then induced a late-inning double play in the seventh.
Suarez has made back-to-back quality starts against the Mets (6⅔ IP, 2 ER) and Nationals after struggling in his first three. He didn’t make any starts in spring training because of an elbow injury and pitched just nine innings during his rehab assignment, so rust was likely a factor in those first three outings when he put two men on base per inning. with an ERA over 9.00.
The Phillies lineup had a productive day throughout. The red-hot Castellanos had multiple hits for the sixth time in the last 10 games. He hit .439 on the 10-game road trip. Bryce Harper turned and walked twice. Bryson Stott drove in a run in the seventh with a single, stealing second, advancing to third on a wild pitch and scoring on Brandon Marsh’s sacrifice fly.
The Phillies are home Monday to begin a three-game series against the Tigers, who have lost their best pitcher (Eduardo Rodríguez) and their best hitter (Riley Greene) to long-term injuries.
“Our at-bats have gotten better every day,” Thomson said. “Hopefully this will turn us around and get us playing the way we think we can.”