The home clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park was silent Thursday afternoon as the Phillies packed their bags for Atlanta following a 5-4 loss to the Dodgers. But the visiting clubhouse was dry and that was consolation for the young Phillies who fought for four days against the team with baseball's best record.
The Phillies failed to sweep the Dodgers after capturing the first three games, but they did deny L.A. the chance to celebrate a division title on their field and soak the visiting clubhouse in champagne. A sweep on Thursday would have been a nice reward for a young team that seems to be coming together as it nears the season's finish line. But taking three — and nearly stealing Thursday's finale — still felt impressive.
"We played them very tough," manager Pete Mackanin said. "They had to be a little nervous because they probably came in here think they were going to beat up on us. But our guys played hard. They've been playing hard all year. On a given day, you can beat anybody."
The Phillies are ending the year with their most inspired play of the season. They finished a 10-game homestand with a 7-3 record and outscored their opponents 56-37. They have nine games left but anticipation already seems to be building to spring training. It is the opposite of last season, when the Phillies started hot and crumbled in the second half.
This team is winning behind a cast of young players, each of whom has a chance to carve a future role. It was the three players who had the most anticipated major-league arrivals this season — J.P. Crawford, Nick Williams, and Rhys Hoskins — who delivered on Thursday. The early beginnings of a core seems to be forming.
"We're playing pretty well and competing with a lot of good teams right now," said Mark Leiter Jr., who allowed one earned run in six innings. "Any time you win a series, that's a good thing. That's always the goal. It's always good to walk out of here with a series win. They're a great team, playoffs and everything. It shows the trend that we're on right now."
The foundation of a rally looked to be setting when Cesar Hernandez started the ninth with a single, his third hit of the game. But Mackanin did not have enough confidence in Hernandez to call for a steal, despite Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen's inability this season to hold base runners. Freddy Galvis hit into a double play and Nick Williams grounded out. The rally was finished and the Dodgers had finally found a way to beat the Phillies.
"Cesar is just having some trouble. He struggles with getting a jump," Mackanin said. "I didn't want to take a chance."
Williams slammed a two-run homer in the third to tie the game at 2 and Hoskins hit a two-run double in the fifth to take a two-run lead. It was his second go-ahead double in three days, but this time it was not enough. Curtis Granderson homered in the sixth off Leiter and then Ricardo Pinto surrendered two runs in the seventh.