News center
Top-notch quality and personalized customer care

Kyle Schwarber and newcomer Drew Ellis combine to lead the Phillies rout over the Nationals, 11

Aug 11, 2023

WASHINGTON — When the Phillies plowed their organizational depth last week and called up Drew Ellis, they planned on using him at first base against left-handed pitchers.

But if the Phillies’ first 59 games proved anything, it's that plans change.

Ellis started his third game in a row Sunday — at third base and against a right-handed pitcher, no less. And never mind that the 27-year-old journeyman came in with one homer in 92 major-league at-bats. He notched three hits, reached base five times, homered — twice! — and helped key an 11-3 rout of the Nationals in the finale of a three-game series and 10-game road trip.

Just like they scripted it, right?

» READ MORE: ‘A valuable experience’: Inside Andrew Painter's road back to the Phillies

"It's awesome," Ellis said after the Phillies closed a 4-6 road trip and won for only the fifth time in 13 games. "Just being able to put on a big league uniform again is really special."

The Phillies had a get-well series against the Nationals, their personal punching bag and deodorizer over the last few seasons. They took two of three games after getting swept by the Mets last week in New York and dropped the opener in Washington but won their first series since May 19-21.

Consider Ellis, for now, to be part of a lineup that manager Rob Thomson revamped over the weekend.

Thomson put struggling Kyle Schwarber back in the leadoff spot, and Schwarber slugged two homers in the finale in Washington. Nick Castellanos moved into the No. 2 hole and continued to swing a hot bat, which he loaned out to superstitious Bryce Harper for the weekend.

If it's the third month of the season, Schwarber must be slugging like Babe Ruth. He has 20 homers in 122 June at-bats since 2021, a phenomenon that not even he can explain.

"I don't know," he said. "To be honest with you, it could be a coincidence, I guess. But I’ve got to be able to keep going out there and putting up quality at-bats."

Schwarber posed to watch his sixth-inning homer, which turned a close game into a rout, and it felt like a fitting reaction. Save for his grand slam May 20, the Phillies had gone 49 games — or 1,848 plate appearances (but who's counting?) — without bashing so much as a three-run home run.

» READ MORE: Aaron Nola is focused on improving his pitches, not his free agency status

For a team that's built to slug, it was unfathomable.

"Yeah, that's hard to believe," Schwarber said, "especially with the type of players that we have in here. Fun stat, I guess."

Here's another: Schwarber and J.T. Realmuto went 0-for-17 with eight strikeouts in the three games against the Mets. But they were 9-for-29 with five homers against the Nats. Realmuto went deep in each of the three games, including a second-inning shot to get things started in the finale against Nats starter Trevor Williams.

And then there's Ellis, released in spring training by the Seattle Mariners and relegated to his couch at home in Indiana before the Phillies came calling in April with a minor-league contract offer.

Ellis went to extended spring training, got promoted to double-A Reading, and was in triple-A Lehigh Valley when he got called up last week to replace injured Alec Bohm. In four games, he's 4-for-10 with four walks and has reached base in eight of 13 plate appearances.

"Everybody on the minor league side recommended him," Thomson said. "[General manager] Sam Fuld and the staff at Lehigh Valley, they said he's got a great approach. And he does. Real quiet, short stroke. He doesn't panic. He doesn't chase. He's a good at-bat."

» READ MORE: As Trea Turner struggles, here's how other notable free agents fared early in their Phillies careers

Good enough, in fact, that he has taken playing time from infielder Edmundo Sosa. Thomson initially said Sosa would get most of the at-bats at third base after Bohm strained his left hamstring strain. But Sosa is 2-for-20 in his last eight games, part of a larger 7-for-44, 10-strikeout slump.

Plans change.

"Just want to ride it out and have fun," Ellis said. "I’ve talked to [Castellanos] quite a bit and he's helped me, just saying to ride this wave as long as possible."

Since 2020, the Phillies are 38-13 against the Nationals. They are 26-4 against them since the second game of a doubleheader on July 29, 2021, their most dominant 30-game stretch over a team since a 26-4 run against the Indianapolis Hoosiers — in 1887-89.

Surely, then, there's no team they would’ve preferred to see after limping out of New York.

Think back to last September. With their wild-card hopes tottering after getting swept in a three-game series in Chicago, the Phillies limped into Nationals Park and took three of four games to move to the brink of clinching a playoff spot for the first time since 2011.

» READ MORE: As Trea Turner struggles, here's how other notable free agents fared early in their Phillies careers

The situation wasn't as dire this time around. But the Phillies were six games under .500 when they arrived here Friday.

"There are going to be times when you go into somebody's ballpark and get swept, but then you’ve got to bounce back," manager Rob Thomson said. "I said it all last year, they’re resilient, they have a short memory, and they keep going."

Lost in all the offense: a second consecutive solid start for Ranger Suárez.

Suárez held the Nationals to one run on eight hits in seven innings, the deepest he has gone into a game in five starts since returning from a spring-training elbow strain. He mixed his pitches, using his sinker, curveball, fastball, and changeup, and got 10 outs on the ground.

"When you see you’re inducing a lot of grounders, that's a good indication that your stuff is good that day," Suárez said through a team interpreter. "You want to keep everything on the ground. It's better to have it on the ground than in the air."

» READ MORE: One year after Rob Thomson became manager, the Phillies are 25-32. Some say not much has changed. His team disagrees.