Shortly after Pete Mackanin took over as Phillies manager in late June, the new sheriff in town said that he wouldn’t leave his stamp on the team until after the All-Star break.
The Phillies, who lost an astonishing 62 games in the first half, are a major league best 13-4, entering Thursday’s game, since the break. The Phillies are third among all MLB teams with a +34 run differential in the second half. The Phillies were outscored by a MLB high 160 runs in the first half. The bullpen has posted a MLB best 1.79 ERA since July 12.
How have the Phillies, who have won four of their last five series, gone from the worst to a team worth watching during an eye-opening 17-game stretch?
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“I think we’re playing relaxed,” Dom Brown said. “We’re starting to play up to our capabilities. We have some talent here.”
Phillies all-time hit king Jimmy Rollins concurs with Brown.
“They have guys that can play over there,” Rollins said. “I knew (coming into the All-Star break) that they were better than their record. They also had some changes over there that helped. (Maikel) Franco is really good. I can see how different he looks now as opposed to what I saw when I was still with them. He’s coming into his own. You look at (Cesar) Hernandez. He looks real good.”
And then there is Mackanin. His predecessor Ryne Sandberg and Rollins never fit.
“When you manage, you have to manage the players,” Rollins said about Sandberg. “You have to deal with 25 personalities.”
According to Brown, that’s what Mackanin excels at.
“Pete lets you know exactly what’s going on,” Brown said. “He’s a great communicator. He reminds me so much of Charlie (Manuel). I would run through a wall for Pete. We all would. He’s fun to play for. We’re having a good time playing for Pete.”
It shows. The Phillies are finally hitting and playing with enthusiasm.
“It’s been fun playing this season," Jeff Francoeur said. "Especially lately."
Outfielder Nick Williams, one of the prospects the Phillies acquired last week in the Cole Hamels trade with the Texas Rangers, went 4-4, with a double and two homers, 3 RBIs, 5 runs, a walk and stolen base for AA Reading at Trenton Wednesday night.
"New team, different players, new league, but it's all the same game," Williams said. "I'm going to play hard and try my best to help."