SAN DIEGO — Rob Thomson leaned over to his pitching coach, Caleb Cotham, when the game reached its most tense moment. Since he became the Phillies manager in June, Thomson had not made a mound visit unless it was to remove a pitcher.
“I’m going to go out there,” Thomson said.
Cotham looked at his boss. He nodded.
“And,” the pitching coach said, “I’m like, ‘Hell yeah.’”
The entire Phillies infield, except second baseman Jean Segura, converged at the mound Tuesday night to meet Thomson. It was a symbolic moment; the baseball lifer who finally seized a chance to be a manager, hailed for his calming presence as an underachieving team became a bunch of overachievers, arriving to quell the jitters.
“To be honest with you,” third baseman Alec Bohm said, “I couldn’t really hear him very well.”
“It was kind of hard to hear,” first baseman Rhys Hoskins said. “I didn’t hear all of it.”
“It was kind of loud,” shortstop Bryson Stott said.
The pause in the ninth inning of a 2-0 Phillies win over the Padres in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series mattered more than the message. That is Thomson. The stoic Canadian does not always have the most profound words. He has motivated the Phillies through his actions — some of them small and perhaps overlooked, but the kinds of actions that people in uniform notice. This team, three wins from the World Series, is not brimming with confidence because of a stirring speech. The confidence accumulated during the summer and it has reached unthinkable levels in October.
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(Photo: Kiyoshi Mio / USA Today)