Phillies look for sweep behind Hernandez


Apr 25, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Roberto Hernandez (27) pitches against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the first inning at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Phillies‘ bats have come alive in the series against the Houston Astros and if they continue to hit well they should have a good shot at a series sweep, especially given the way Roberto Hernandez has pitched lately.

Hernandez only won one of his six starts in June.  Since then, he is a winner of three of his last five starts.  His latest effort was an eight-inning gem in Washington.  He gave up one unearned run on five hits with three strikeouts.

The Astros send right-hander Collin McHugh against Hernandez.  McHugh has not won a decision in his last eight starts.  The Astros have scored 25 runs in those eight games started by McHugh, 14 of them came on June 8 – a no-decision game for McHugh.  Although McHugh has been fairly mediocre this season he does have a strikeout rate of 10.1 per nine innings, in 95 innings of work.

Assuming Hernandez will see that the Astros continue to provide poor run support for HcHugh, he looks to be complimented by the surging Ryan Howard.

It seems Howard’s job at first base is safe and the Phillies welcome his hot bat in the lineup.  Howard was 1-for-25 before the first game of the current series.  Tuesday night he hit a solo home run and came through with a walk-off RBI base hit in the 15-inning marathon.  On Wednesday he was 2-for-4 with two RBIs and struck out twice.

Like Howard, second baseman Chase Utley was in a funk at the plate heading into the series, but Utley has also hit better since then.  Tuesday he collected a hit and drew three walks, but Wednesday night he reasserted himself going 2-for-4 with a three-run homer.

Astros second baseman Jose Altuve continues to be a tough out this season, but so far the Phillies have held him to three hits in 11 at bats in the series.  He’s hit safely in all of his games this month.

If the Phillies win they will have their third sweep at Citizens Bank Park in 2014.