While it’s obvious the Phillies offense made it happen during the four-game sweep over the Dodgers, and it’s more obvious Phils pitching was downright dominant (five runs by the Blue), the answer to why the Phillies are suddenly rolling?
It’s the attitude, stupid.
To use a phrase during this political-heavy time, yes, it’s the attitude. Charlie Manuel, scratching his head during the worst times for the offense, said he didn’t know the source of the team’s lethargy. He pointed to guys forcing the issue, swinging for the fences and trying to be heroes. With mashers like Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell in the abyss, the entire team seemed like a gelatinous blob. No movement, no momentum, no fervor.
Go back to the night the Phils last had offensive fervor, the 20-run explosion against Saint Louis. Then go to the next day — the day Eric Bruntlett plowed into Yadier Molina, taking him out of the game and evaporating the energy from Busch Stadium II. This moment has been pointed to by some fans as the moment the team switched gears completely, from high-flyin’ and chugging, to tired and bored. True or not, Bruntlett’s heavy slide represents the beginning of a long and strange trip, one where guys didn’t get pumped, blank stares came cheaply and bats were tossed nonchalantly after Ks.
Game three of the Dodgers series seemed to show the switch back. After the offense finally broke out of doldrums, the Phils found themselves in another classic zombie walk. But the ninth inning came, and who singled to lead it off? Shane Victorino. He scored the game-tying run on a clutch Pedro Feliz base hit. Vic again made it happen to start the 11th, hustling to an ad-lib double and setting up what would be the game-winning home run by Feliz. But Vic’s reaction after the double — that was the key. He applauded, jumped around, yelled “Let’s go!” (Not to mention his playoff-style facial hair, the “Victo-beard.”)
That’s the fervor missing from this team for so long. That’s the lead-by-example play that had been missing, the kind of play Jimmy Rollins ate up last season.
So what do you know — one night later, Rollins gets on base all five times, smiles, claps along and hustles. Fans respond, all is well. The Phils win 5-0 and suddenly it’s 2007 again. There’s energy, there’s fervor, there’s response. There’s attitude, and hopefully, it’s here to stay.