3 takeaways from the Phillies’ sweep of the Rockies

Here's what we saw from the Phillies' much-needed sweep against an obviously weaker opponent.
Colorado Rockies v Philadelphia Phillies
Colorado Rockies v Philadelphia Phillies / Mitchell Leff/GettyImages

The Philadelphia Phillies began a 10-game homestand by splitting a four-game series against the rapidly improving Pittsburgh Pirates. It left them with a disappointing record of 8-8 at the outset of the week.

While it wasn't exactly the result fans were looking for, especially in Friday's loss — on the same day the team debuted its controversial City Connect jerseys — fans were hoping some incoming weaker competition in the form of the Colorado Rockies and Chicago White Sox would help right the ship.

So far, mission accomplished.

Wednesday's sweep of the Rockies was the kind of slump buster an under-performing Phillies team needed and at the right time. Now 11-8 and two games back of the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves, the Phillies were able to climb the ladder in the win column as well as the standings thanks in large part to the hapless Rockies.

The bottom-dwelling White Sox are headed to town for a three-game weekend series starting Friday. The Phillies have another chance to rack up some easy Ws and put a major dent in the standings if the wounded Braves should scuffle over the weekend against the 2023 World Series champion Texas Rangers.

But that didn't mean the series against the Rockies was easy. Two of three games were nail-biters late, with the bullpen called upon to maintain leads. Twice, the Phillies came out on top, but the late-innings drama that unfolded with the bullpen not getting the job done in key spots highlights a concerning trend. Starting pitching has been leading the way, the offense seems ready to pour on some runs, but the bullpen remains a question mark.

With that said, let's break down the Phillies' three-game sweep of the Rockies.

The Phillies' starting pitching was outstanding

The trio of Aaron Nola, Ranger Suárez, and Cristopher Sánchez couldn't have pitched any better against the Rockies. In 22 1/3 innings, the three combined to allow one run and 16 hits while striking out 27 and only allowing three walks. And while the Rockies' starting lineup sure won't be confused with the Los Angeles Dodgers anytime soon, to see the Phillies rotation this dominant bodes well for the season.

All three performances were jaw-dropping, but nothing will top Suárez's complete game shutout on Tuesday. The left-hander combined eight strikeouts while keeping the ball on the ground throughout the game, and Rockies hitters never really had a chance. Suárez also got it done with the glove, routinely fielding his position on bouncers to the mound and helping his own cause in the calm, casual way we've all come to expect.

Nola was lights out on Monday. In 7 1/3 innings, he allowed four hits, one walk, and one earned run while striking out nine. Nola was the unfortunate recipient of a no-decision in this effort as the offense failed to solve Rockies starter Cal Quantrill and a trio of relievers before Cristian Pache's game-winning single in the 10th sealed a 2-1 Phillies victory.

Sánchez was simply dominant in his six innings of work in Wednesday's series clincher. The lefty allowed five hits and one unearned run while striking out 10 and only walking one. Sánchez's start and a Phillies offense that set the tone early should have been enough for a 7-1 victory.

Following a scoreless inning of relief from Yunior Marte, Gregory Soto had a dreadful eighth that saw him allow five runs on three hits and two walks. Thankfully, Jeff Hoffman bailed him out of the inning with the lead still intact. José Alvarado was able to close it out with a scoreless ninth, and Sanchez improved to 1-2 on the season.

The Phillies offense is waking up

Aside from a low-scoring affair in Monday's 2-1 extra-innings victory, the Phillies offense is showing signs of a breakout following a 5-0 win on Tuesday and a 7-6 showing on Wednesday. To see the offense join the starting rotation as a major factor is a welcome sight after slow starts from some key Phillies hitters to begin the season. Let's hope that continues when they face off against the White Sox on Friday.

Leading the way was Trea Turner. With six hits and five runs scored, Turner is starting to get on base and score some runs at the top of the order. On Wednesday, he was a triple short of the cycle in a 3-for-4 showing that also saw him score twice and hit his second home run. The only thing missing from Turner over the last few games is that record-breaking 40th stolen base without being caught. Maybe he's saving that for the weekend?

Kyle Schwarber also had himself a night on Wednesday. Going back-to-back with Turner to start the game, Schwarber added another home run in the sixth inning and drove in three runs on the day. The home run in the first was the 250th of his career, and he's off to a fantastic start with a noticeably improved .230 batting average, five home runs, and nine RBI.

Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Brandon Marsh, and Alec Bohm all had key moments in the series, but one of the highlights was Wednesday night's effort from struggling center fielder Johan Rojas. Rojas was a pest, going 2-for-3 with a double, one walk, one run scored, and a stolen base.

The big moments at the plate have been few and far between for Rojas, so maybe Wednesday's performance is a sign that he's becoming more comfortable as a major league hitter? Stay tuned.

Another mixed bag from the bullpen

The Phillies bullpen has seen mixed results through 19 games. To date, four relievers have contributed to the six saves, and the early returns on the bullpen-by-committee experiment are decidedly mixed.

Is this bullpen structure the latest innovation in an analytically driven game? Or are we witnessing the Phillies taking a Band-Aid approach to patching things together with a problem-to-be-solved later situation?

Either way, the bullpen had some great moments against the Rockies. José Alvarado led the way with 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief, one save and one strikeout during his two appearances. Alvarado was able to get key outs when they mattered most in two very close ball games. Yunior Marte also contributed a scoreless inning on Wednesday.

On the other side of the equation is Gregory Soto. Following Marte's strong performance, Soto was called upon to keep the Phillies 7-1 lead intact in the eighth. Soto wasn't up to the challenge in this one, allowing five runs on three hits and walking two. Hoffman stopped the bleeding, but not without laboring to get the remaining two outs.

Hoffman played the role of hero and villain against the Rockies. On Monday, he came into the ninth inning with a tie game and made things interesting. After securing the first two outs, the right-hander allowed a hit and a walk and unleashed the first of two wild pitches to get the Rockies within 90 feet of a game-winning run.

His second wild pitch could have been a disaster as pitch-runner Kyle Freeland darted home. Hoffman caught the throw in a collision with Freeland and got the tag to end the inning and keep the game tied. It was a close one. Far from clean performances, but Hoffman got things done and somehow still has an ERA of 2.00 through nine games.

The Phillies did what they needed to do against the Rockies to begin the week with a sweep over a weaker opponent. They'll need to come out firing on all cylinders on Friday and beat up on a 3-15 Chicago team that is certain to have a firm grip on the bottom spot in the AL Central this year. These are the teams the Phillies need to wipe the floor with if they want a chance at first place in the NL East by the end of the weekend. Anything less would be a major disappointment.