Zach Eflin stood Saturday night with a funny sticker affixed to his T-shirt after an 8-3 win over the Marlins. Rhys Hoskins and Jake Arrieta traded foul shots on a mini-basketball hoop. A few sons of players played ping-pong and mid-2000s hip-hop blared from the speakers.
The Phillies have been in first place for 30 consecutive days and their win Saturday increased their lead over Atlanta to 11/2 games. They are just four wins shy of equaling the 66 they finished with last season. The opening game of the postseason — if the Phillies return to October baseball — is just less than two months away. If the youngest team in baseball is going to feel pressure, this would be the time.
But visit the team's clubhouse after a win like Saturday night's and you would be hard-pressed to see any signs.
"This team has a lot of confidence going around," said Nick Williams, who hit one of the team's four homers. "Any error you make or bad call and you have guys just saying, 'Keep going.' I think this team has the potential to be amazing for the rest of the season, to be honest."
The Phillies racked up 11 hits and chased Marlins righthander Jose Urena after five innings. Williams, Asdrubal Cabrera, Cesar Hernandez, and Carlos Santana homered. Hoskins walked twice to become the fastest player since 1929 to record his 100th career walk, doing it in 151 games.
They have scored at least five runs in each of the first three games of the series and will lean on Aaron Nola on Sunday to complete a rare four-game sweep. The Phillies are using the last-place Marlins to create separation in the division. And their offense, after a slow start to the season, is showing signs of breaking out.
"We've talked often like, 'What does a game look like where we're getting every angle? Defense, pitching, bullpen, offense?'" manager Gabe Kapler said. "I think tonight was what it looks like."
Eflin allowed just three runs on four hits in eight innings. He struck out six and walked none. Kapler said Eflin could have pitched the ninth, but the Phillies needed to find work for Adam Morgan, who retired three of the four batters he faced.
The Phillies had excellent production from their lineup and their pitching. They have played the type of baseball this past week — first by standing up to the Red Sox and then handling the Marlins – that seems to prove that they will not be fading anytime soon.
"It's where we should be, to be completely honest," Eflin said. "Coming up with all these guys in the minor leagues, all we did was win and we knew that would transition eventually at the major-league level. It just took a little while to figure it out. We plan on staying here. We don't plan on going anywhere. We come to the park each day expecting to win."
The final two months, Kapler said, will be a dogfight. The Phillies will have to hold off the Braves and Nationals for eight weeks if they are to continue their season on Oct. 4. The challenges — and the pressure — will only heighten.
Cabrera, who homered for the first time since joining the Phillies, has reached the postseason four times He said the Phillies just have to "keep playing the way we are now and we will get there."
And then Hoskins told Eflin to wear an orange sticker with flames and the word "HOT" emblazoned on it after the pitcher made sure the Phillies would spend another day in first place as they moved another day toward the playoffs.
"I don't think the guys are necessarily worried about it," Williams said. "We're just trying to control what we can control. I've been feeding off that energy and not really paying attention to the standings. There is still a lot of baseball left. This team is just amazing. There's a lot of talent here and a lot of young guys here who want to consistently grind. It's crazy because we're just getting better."