"It's nice to see," Mackanin said. "Somebody cares. It's good. It's a good thing."
The Phillies have struggled in the past six games, going 1-5 and allowing a combined 63 runs. They suffered their worst shutout loss since 1883 on Sunday against the Mets at Citi Field, 17-0. They blew a big lead Tuesday in a 7-6 loss and fell behind early and never recovered on Wednesday.
Phillies right-hander Frank Herrmann snapped a dubious streak in the seventh inning when he pitched two-thirds scoreless inning. Before that, 12 consecutive Phillies relievers to make an appearance had allowed at least one earned run. The streak started after David Hernandez threw a scoreless seventh inning Saturday in New York.
So a pair of veterans that will become free agents after the World Series -- one who has been with the Phillies' organization since it selected him in the 2001 Draft and one whot has been with the organization a little more than a month following a trade with the Dodgers -- showed some leadership, got everybody together and reminded them they can still play for something.
"It's important to try and finish strong," Howard said. "It's easy to cash it in with four games left, you're not playing for a playoff spot or anything like that. You just want to be able to win and go out on a high note. You just want to finish on a positive note, and we've got four games to try and do that."
His teammates seemed to appreciate the message.
"They don't want to see guys stumble to the finish line," Cameron Rupp said about Howard and Ellis. "Finish hard, finish strong. We've had a good year in a lot of guys' eyes. We've improved on last year. There have been a lot of good things we can build off and that's what the message was -- continue to work and get better."
"The way we've been losing hasn't been close," Adam Morgan said. "It was the tipping point. A lot of people had a lot to say. It was all good. It was all positive."
The Phillies close their season with a three-game series this weekend against the Mets at Citizens Bank Park. The Mets are fighting for a National League Wild Card.
Perhaps the Phillies can make the Mets' lives tougher.
"There are four important games left," Rupp said. "It can all start tomorrow and take it into next year."
Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.