February 3, 2023

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Phils rout on bittersweet day: 'It all comes down to winning'

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PHILADELPHIA — Kyle Schwarber started the post-Joe Girardi era on Friday with a first-pitch leadoff home run to center field.

It continued from there in a 10-0 victory over the Angels at Citizens Bank Park. Bryson Stott hit the first home run of his career, a three-run blast in the second. Bryce Harper hit a three-run homer in the fifth. Schwarber and Harper went yard again in the sixth. Zach Eflin pitched great in eight innings. Nick Maton and Odúbel Herrera made diving catches to rob Mike Trout of a couple hits.

It was just one game under interim manager Rob Thomson, but perhaps president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski’s managerial shakeup sparked something. Maybe it was the kick in the butt the players needed.

“It better be, because everybody in the clubhouse now knows that [stuff] isn’t going well, so changes were made,” Phillies right fielder Nick Castellanos said before the game. “It’s a sad day when somebody loses their job because we’re not performing. I take that hard.

“It definitely shakes things up. We’ll see how that plays out.”

Players pretty much said the same thing following Girardi’s dismissal: somebody always takes the fall when a team underperforms, but the responsibility falls on the players.

“The players are playing,” Rhys Hoskins said. “The coaches aren’t playing. The players are playing. … At the end of the day it’s about winning baseball games and we didn’t do enough of that.”

“The way I look at it is it always comes down to the players, because we’re the ones that have to play,” Castellanos said. “If the players were playing better, we’d have more wins and Joe would still have a job.”

Girardi lost his job because the Phillies were 22-29 with a franchise-record payroll. They entered Friday 12 games behind the Mets in the National League East, and 5 1/2 games behind the Giants for the third NL Wild Card.

Dombrowski said he thinks a new voice could help save the season. He said Thomson provides “a different type of communication aspect with the players than what was taking place. I think that was really important for us.”

It was an interesting comment. There didn’t seem to be a major problem in the clubhouse with Girardi, like previous Phillies managers, where players frequently griped about one thing or another. Girardi certainly wasn’t Charlie Manuel, who was always laughing and joking with his players. But no question Girardi’s decision not to pitch Corey Knebel on May 24 in Atlanta didn’t go over well. Knebel, Schwarber and Kyle Gibson met with Girardi the next day.

“It all comes down to winning, and we just haven’t done that,” Harper said. “As a team, there’s blame on us as well. There’s just not blame on Joe. We haven’t played to the best of our ability. We haven’t done the things to be the team that we should be.

“I talked to Joe this morning after it happened and told him thank you. He’s put a lot of effort, time into this game and organization trying to make it great and get us to where we need to be. I just wanted to let him know I was thankful for that because of the time he spends away from his family, his daughter, her basketball career. I put blame on guys in this clubhouse, myself included.”

Does he think Thomson can help?

“He’s been around the game for a long time,” Harper said. “He’s been around winning teams and winning managers as well, like Joe Girardi, right? He’s been in this organization for five years now. He knows the ins and outs. He brings that new voice, maybe he’s more open now since he is the manager and not the bench coach. I think we’ll see more out of him.”

Thomson joked that every night is not going to be as easy as Friday. Managers don’t make too many difficult decisions in 10-run victories.

There will be difficult times, but he enjoyed his debut.

“Leading up to the game, I had a little more anxiety leading up, dealing with all the stuff, all the meetings,” Thomson said. “Once we got to the game, I felt OK. It was normal.”

The players congratulated Thomson in the clubhouse afterward. This was his first win as a big league manager.

“It was a great way to go out there, respond today and get [Thomson] the first official managerial win,” Schwarber said. “We said some things to him. Congratulated him, things like that. Go out there and do it again tomorrow, right? He’s a baseball rat. He’s been in the game a long time. To see him get this opportunity, if it’s not Joe, I think everybody is really happy that it’s going to be him.”

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