Charlie Manuel used to have a name for this time of year.
According to science*, as the baseball season crawls from spring to summer and the air gets warmer and thinner, the ball carries further when struck by a bat. Now's the time of year to start using all those solid whacks players have been saving up, with the air density finally in their favor. Ask any of the Phillies; once you remind them what a home run is, they'll probably agree with all of this.
The Phillies are the Atlanta Braves away from being last in most offensive categories - home runs (43), BA (.231), and SLG (.359). They are tied with the Braves for hits (411) and are in last place all by themselves in OBP (.287).
That is why, when they do hit home runs, because of the warmness of the atmosphere remember, we need to celebrate, or at least look at each one as a monumental planetary event - possibly the last we'll ever see of its kind. One of the things a deeply troubled person who is reviewing the Phillies' last few home runs for some reason would notice is that there is a sense of variety among the homerers. Does that matter? No it does not.
Now, let's look at the Phillies' offensive champions over the past few days, when there have actually been home runs - sometimes multiple ones in a game!
June 4 - Cesar Hernandez
Cream cheese, Cesar Hernandez got one over the fence. That is some generous summer air up there if even the flailing, generally powerless, middle infielder on the bubble can muscle one out of the park - to dead center, no less. Good god.
It was his third home run since his MLB career began in 2013 and added Junior Guerra to the shameful list that also includes Sam LeCure and Rafael Betancourt and remains unmentioned by their peers as to avoid anyone having to be in the presence of such humiliation. Saturday's was his first home run that wasn't just a fly ball that got a little carried away in the right field corner. Because, as I said, it was to dead center. Also, it was hit by Cesar Hernandez.
Citizens Bank Park is the only place in which Hernandez has hit a home run. Entering the game Saturday, you could have fit two of Hernandez's SLG's (.307) into the Reds' Adam Duvall's (.619). The conclusion to draw here is that some baseball players are much, much better than others, I suppose.
June 4 - Tommy Joseph
There's a surging pocket of power in the Phillies lineup, thanks largely to Joseph getting into 17 games and already being fourth on the team in dingers (with only four). That's more concentrated power than we've seen since Maikel Franco drifted away, and certainly more positive results than anything that's come out of the first base slot this season.
Tommy Joseph has more hits (5) and HRs (1) in his last 8 at-bats than Ryan Howard has since May 12 (46 at-bats). #Phillies— Stephen Gross (@SteveGrossMCall) June 4, 2016
The first base job is more or less Joseph's, with every home run solidifying his position. It is now time for the Phillies to perform the awkward dance of turning Ryan Howard into a bench player; not wanting to embarrass the veteran, while also having him step aside. Howard has been reluctant to admit to any shortcomings of late, and why wouldn't he be, given that we're all telling him what they are every day. He doesn't need to hear himself say it.
So that, eventually, leaves us with Joseph, whose home runs are dangerously encouraging. He tends to favor the streaking, meteoric home run; line drives that see the end coming but decide to just keep going. Saturday's sample broke that model, being a soaring bird-killer that landed in the shrubbery beyond the center field fence where the Phanatic nests and craps. Given that it, albeit temporarily, gave the Phillies the lead, no one really cared how it left, just that the young prospect with the long road to the majors had bought himself another trip around the bases.
June 3 - Andres Blanco
Blanco was able to do the unthinkable earlier in this Milwaukee series, in that he got a ball over the fence while there were runners on base. In a shocking turn of events, apparently, this meant that all of the runners got to come in and score as well.
The universally admired bench player has become far more renown for his timely doubling than his long ball, but with his help and the help of a breaking pitch that hung on too long, the Phillies were able to score six runs on a starting pitcher, a remarkable feat for this team, but not quite as remarkable as them not being able to score more than three runs in a game at all since May 25.
It was Blanco's first home run since April 26, when he, too, took Max Scherzer deep. The Phillies get a whiff of Scherzer on the mound and the hair on the back of their necks stand up, it would seem. They don't always beat him, even in their feral state, but they at least poke him a few times.
June 3 - Cameron Rupp
Rupp connected for a home run this year.
"Say," said every headline writer in the world. "That gives me an idea."
I've always thought there must be a tantalizing amount of power hidden somewhere in that massive human, and occasionally he taps into it and breaks one off - sometimes even off some real resume-building opposition: Since 2015, Rupp's gone yard off Max Scherzer, Jacob deGrom, C.C. Sabathia, and James Shields.
His most recent, off the Brewers' Jimmy Nelson, was more on the Tommy Joseph #brand, in that it was an unstoppable missile headed for the outfield seats.
June 2 - Maikel Franco
A recent article credited Odubel Herrera as being the Phillies' only power hitter, completely omitting Franco's name from the narrative of the team's rebuild. Perhaps that's what the 23-year-old deserves, after having the gall to not homer since May 23.
When the Phillies played the Brewers in late April, Franco went bonkers, hitting three home runs - including two in one game - and also throwing a guy out from his ass. He has simmered down since then, but each quiet fist pump when he does get a hold of one these days is a reminder that one day, loud, relentless offense won't be such a foreign concept for this team.
June 1 - Tyler Goeddel
Just think what this home run could have meant if Goeddel hadn't been hitting it with his team already down seven runs in the seventh inning. In a short time as a major leaguer, he has gotten to both John Lackey and... wait... wait for it... you know what's coming... but just keep waiting anyway... Max Scherzer. Everybody homers off Scherzer around here. I don't think you get to eat if you don't.
Goeddel, with three career homers, has never gotten into one prior to the seventh inning. Are we watching the birth of the most clutch hitter in Phillies history? Only if other players start to score runs as well! Otherwise, Goeddel and any other would-be heroes will just be firing off moonshots into the dark, merely delaying the other team's high fives by however long it takes to get around the bases.
May 30 - Freddy Galvis
Man, it really seems like the Phillies hit a lot more home runs a lot more often when you stack them all on top of each other like this.
It did not look like Tanner Roark had much fear in his heart as he delivered to Galvis. It looked like he just reared back and soft-tossed him an 80 M.P.H. meatball that no one expected to travel very far, as Galvis' spot in the lineup is usually well clear of any of the isolated patches of power the Phillies lineup does have. But what people forget is that about every two weeks, Galvis just snaps and lays into a pitch, providing a fleeting moment of production at the plate from one of the team's designated "defense-first" guys.
"We need more offense," Pete Mackanin said after this game, after quickly citing the Galvis homer and a frantic squeeze play that resulted in the Phillies' two runs on the day (another loss). It makes you wonder that with this many different guys hitting home runs, what if even just two or three of them began doing it more consistently. This stretch didn't even happen to feature a home run from Herrera, the team's best hitter, who is more capable of hitting one than a lot of the guys listed here. Just imagine, if you will, a Phillies lineup with multiple power threats, providing young pitchers with the run support they need to calm down.
The air's only getting thinner, boys.