Ryne Sandberg took over for Charlie Manuel, whom the Phillies fired Aug. 16. (USA Today Images)
NEW YORK -- After suffering shutout losses in their first two games under interim manager Ryne Sandberg, the Phillies have won seven of nine.
They beat the Mets, 2-1, Monday night on the strength of Cliff Lee’s left arm and Cody Asche’s two-run triple (see story).
The natural question that springs from the Phils’ recent success is: Has the change from Charlie Manuel to Sandberg sparked the club?
Lee spoke on that topic after Monday night’s win.
“We’re grinding it out a little more, just playing hard from the start to the finish, basic execution,” the pitcher said. “I’ve said that from the very beginning -- if we just execute and play fundamental baseball we can beat anyone. We’ve started doing that in the last week and a half or so and the results are showing. We’re still making some mistakes that we can’t afford to make, but we’ve gotten away with it. It’s just more of a get-after-it and let’s-go frame of mind and it’s working out a lot better for us.
“I’m not a guy who thinks the manager wins or loses games for us. I don’t think it was Charlie’s fault that we lost, and I don’t think it’s Sandberg that’s winning it for us, to be honest with you. But I think he has instilled more of let’s-get-after-it frame of mind and that’s what we’re doing.
“But it’s the guys that are going out there and getting the outs and making the plays and swinging the bats that’s getting it done. I feel like his frame of mind and what he expects has influenced that and it’s up to us to buy into it and lay it out and we’ve definitely done a better job with that, just getting after it and playing hard and never giving up and trying to execute and play fundamental baseball. That’s how we’ve won the last 10 days.”
The bullpen has certainly executed better recently. One of baseball’s worst throughout the season, the Phils’ bullpen has a 3.65 ERA over the last nine games -- 2.47 if you remove outfielder Casper Wells’ emergency 18th inning appearance Saturday night.
Lefty Jake Diekman’s recent work has been impressive. He has seven straight scoreless appearances. He has allowed just four hits while striking out 12 and walking none over that span.
Diekman’s confidence has swelled during the successful run.