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Sizzling Phillies finish homestand 8-2 with sweeps of White Sox, Rockies

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Yes, the Phillies spent the last two seasons piling up wins late in the year and ended each of the last two seasons with deep runs in the postseason.

But those cold April and Mays gnawed at the team. How could a team that ended 2022 and 2023 among the best in baseball — there were two straight trips to the NL Championship Series in those years — always open the season in such a malaise?

Wonder no more.

Turned out the answer may have been all about the schedule. The Phillies are off to one of their best starts in years in large part because they beat-up on some of the worst teams in baseball.

Behind eight strong innings from Aaron Nola, the Phillies capped an 8-2 homestand with an 8-2 win Sunday over the Chicago White Sox. More than that, they won the games at Citizens Bank Park they were supposed to win — they split two games with the Pirates, then had consecutive three-game sweeps against the Colorado Rockies and the White Sox.

The Rockies and White Sox are a combined 7-34 this season.

“You go into a series and you play a team that hasn't been playing well, I get a little fearful on you're going to respond,” manager Rob Thomson said. “Our guys responded really well. Gotta keep it going.”

The Phillies have won six straight and are 13-6 in April this season — seven games over .500 in the month for the first time since 2018.

They are 14-8 overall — a marked improvement from an 11-11 start over their first 22 games in 2022 and 10-12 last season. The Phillies opened 2022 at 22-29 when they fired manager Joe Girardi and promoted Thomson.

Sometimes things work out in Philadelphia.

The homestand recap out of the starting rotation is pretty impressive: Spencer Turnbull carried a no-hit bid into the seventh inning and Zack Wheeler took one into the eighth in consecutive starts against the White Sox. Ranger Suárez struck out in a shutout against Colorado. Cristopher Sánchez allowed one run in six innings against the Rockies.

And Nola? He made two starts on the homestand and allowed three runs and eights hits over 15 1/3 innings.

“Any time you can win a series, it's great,” Nola said. “Any time you can sweep the series, it's even better. To do it twice, it's great.”

The Phillies used some baserunning razzle-dazzle for Trea Turner to steal home on Sunday.

Bryce Harper was on first following his run-scoring single that made it 2-1 and Turner was on third. Harper took off an attempted steal of second base but pulled up just shy of the bag. Second baseman Lenyn Sosa ran Harper almost all the way back to first base until he spotted Turner scampering toward the plate and made an off-target side-armed throw home. Turner was safe.

The attempted double-steal wasn't the original plan.

With the Phillies rolling, it worked.

“I think Bryce got a little bit of a slow jump, or didn't get a very good jump, and Trea reacted to it," Thomson said. “They ran it right. But we didn't put that play on.”

The Phillies had the offense to back up the starters over the 10 games. Schwarber homered and walked three times on Sunday. Turner has hit in 10 straight games — and swiped 40 consecutive bases with being caught dating to 2022. Alec Bohm homered twice against the White Sox on Friday. The Phillies scored 36 runs in the last five games.

“As a whole group, it's nice when we're able to put up some runs and let the starters kind of get settled in and keep going deep in the games for us,” Schwarber said. “It's nice to see a record being over .500 and know that you're playing solid baseball. I think the thing is not forgetting the fight. I felt like those were a couple of things the last couple of years that benefitted us. We started slow but we were able to keeping over the course of the year. I think that's going to be a big thing for us.”

The Phillies hope what they accomplished at home can carry over into a 10-game road trip.

The Phillies are in Cincinnati on Monday for the start of four-game series on a trip that includes three games in San Diego and three in Los Angeles against the Angels. Suárez (3-0, 1.73 ERA) gets the start Monday against Reds right-hander Hunter Greene (0-1, 3.45 ERA).

Neither the Angels nor the Padres have winning records.

What that kind of schedule ahead, the Phillies might just come back home leading the NL East.

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AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb

Dan Gelston, The Associated Press