These standing ovations are becoming a nightly occurrence for Trea Turner.
The $300 million shortstop hit a go-ahead two-run homer in the sixth inning Thursday night to propel the Phillies to a 6-2 win over the Nationals. The Phils took three of four and are 5-2 on their 10-game homestand.
Turner received loud ovations beginning over the weekend against the Royals. A majority of the fanbase — at least those attending games at Citizens Bank Park — realized he could use some love, some pats on the back. His Phillies career began with four mostly miserable months and he entered the homestand hitting just .235 with a .290 on-base percentage.
He's been on fire ever since. Turner's three-run homer on Saturday keyed a Phillies comeback win over the Royals, and he's had an extra-base hit in five of the last six games.
In the span of a week, he's hit two homers and four doubles, driven in eight runs and raised his season OPS from .656 to .686.
“Incredible,” manager Rob Thomson said. “He looks like Trea Turner. It’s helped the whole club. They’ve kinda rallied around him.”
Nick Castellanos and J.T. Realmuto broke the game open with two-run bombs in the seventh. The Phillies have spent most of the season in the bottom-third of baseball in homers but have 18 over the last seven days, five more than any team in the majors.
“I think early on we’d have some good at-bats and stuff but it felt like we were getting beat by the homer and now recently as a team we’re hitting a lot more of them up and down the order,” Turner said. “Those are game changers. Momentum shifts.”
Castellanos has homered six times in his last 10 games and reached 20 for the fifth time in his career. This has been by far his most powerful stretch in two seasons as a Phillie with 12 homers in his last 40 games. He had eight in his previous 73.
Realmuto reached base all four times with the homer, single and two walks. He needed a get-right night after expanding the zone far too frequently over a 20-game slump during which he hit .200 with 26 K's.
The Phillies didn't break through against Patrick Corbin until the sixth inning. They walked seven times in the first five frames and had the bases loaded with nobody out in the third without scoring. Bryson Stott reached base on an error to open the bottom of the sixth and end Corbin's night. Turner homered on the second pitch he saw from reliever Andrés Machado, ripping an up-and-in 97 mph fastball into the left field seats.
“We weren’t doing that earlier in the year but you know it’s in there because it’s the history of these guys,” Thomson said. “It’s good to see that it’s finally happening. It’s good to see guys are hitting opposite-field home runs because it means you’re staying on the ball and not trying to do too much.”
It was not a crisply-played game. The Nationals committed three errors and the Phillies had two until a misplay by Bryce Harper at first base was changed to a single an inning after it happened. A groundball by Dom Smith up the line bounced up off the bag and struck Harper in the face. An inning later, he was out of the game with a mid-back spasm.
Aaron Nola started for the Phillies and allowed a run over five innings, spending most of his night with the bases occupied. He stranded five runners over the first four innings, four of them in scoring position. He pitched a 1-2-3 fifth, then came back out for the sixth and allowed consecutive singles to put runners on the corners. Matt Strahm left one of them on base.
The Phillies are 64-52, up 1½ games on the Giants for the top National League wild-card spot. It's an important position to be in because the top wild-card team hosts its first-round opponent in a Best-of-Three series. There's a big difference, for example, between forcing San Francisco to come across the country with just one day between the end of the regular season and wild-card round and being the team that has to make that trip.
The five other NL teams in action Thursday were the Braves, Pirates, Cardinals, Dodgers and Rockies, so the only movement in the wild-card race belonged to the Phils. They now lead the Marlins (third wild card) by four games. They lead the Cubs (first team out) by 4½.
Next up are the Twins, who lead the AL Central at 60-57. Cristopher Sanchez opposes veteran lefty Dallas Keuchel in Game 1. Then the Phillies face difficult right-handers in three of their next four games — Minnesota's Pablo Lopez and Sonny Gray and Toronto's Kevin Gausman.
“I don’t know the explanation but I enjoy it, that’s for sure,” Turner said of the Phillies’ uptick in power.
“Trying to put these first 100 games behind me and keep going and playing baseball like a little kid.”