The Phillies remained the hottest team in Major League Baseball since the MLB All-Star break three weeks ago, winning for the 12th time in their last 14 games in a 12-2 demolition of the Atlanta Braves at Citizens Bank Park.
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Who knows how long this hot streak will continue? But one thing is certain: as the dog days of August opened, the Phils continued to show that they can run with the big dogs. Suddenly this team has some bite.
The victim on this night was Braves’ rookie pitcher Matt Wisler, who had come into this start having begun his career in exciting fashion, with a 5-1 record and 3.43 ERA. However, the Phils’ bats battered Wisler (5-2) for 7 earned runs on 8 hits, including a pair of homeruns in just 4.2 innings.
It was the Braves bats that got things going early in this one, scoring twice in the top of the first off the Phils’ own exciting rookie hurler, Aaron Nola. It began right away, with a home run by Nick Markakis on the game’s 2nd pitch. One out later, Freddie Freeman doubled, and A.J. Pierzynski singled him home and it was 2-0 Atlanta.
However, Nola (2-1) settled down after that, allowing just 2 more hits over the next four innings. Overall, Nola tossed 5 innings, allowing 2 earned runs on 5 hits while walking no one and striking out 3 batters.
In the home 4th, the Phils’ bats put up a crooked number, scoring four times off Wisler. Franco led it off with a double, and came around to score on an RBI single from Ryan Howard. Then following a two-out Cody Asche walk, Cameron Rupp blasted a 3-run homer to center field, opening the Phillies lead to 5-2.
With one out in the bottom of the 5th, Odubel Herrera absolutely destroyed Wisler, crushing a 3-1 fastball into the right field upper deck to make it 6-2. Then with two outs in the inning, Howard doubled and came around to score on an RBI single by Domonic Brown. The tag play on Brown was challenged, with the Phils winning and gaining the run that made it 7-2. That ended Wisler’s night.
In the bottom of the 6th, the Phillies offense again put up a crooked number, this time a 5-spot to put things out of reach and end the game’s scoring. Franco had a one-out RBI double to score the team’s 8th run, Brown an RBI grounder to score the 9th, and then finally Freddy Galvis put a punctuation mark on the inning when he lined a 3-run homer to right.
The Phils also got a strong performance from their bullpen on this night, with Elvis Araujo, Hector Neris, and finally Dalier Hinojosa shutting the Braves out over the game’s final four innings, allowing just one hit combined.
This hot streak is tempered by the depths that the team had buried itself over the 2015 season’s first 3 months. But the fact is, they are now playing with a swagger. They are a noticeably looser bunch.
The once-dreadful offense has come alive since the middle of June, averaging over 5 runs per game since that point. Hernandez’ 2 hits and Herrera’s 3 raised each of their averages north of the .280 mark. Howard’s RBI was his 60th of the season, tied for 11th in the entire National League. He and Franco, who also had another multi-hit game, have become a legitimate 3-4 threat in the middle of the batting order.
At least some of the credit for that improvement has to go to Pete Mackanin, under whose guidance the team is now 15-16. A win on Sunday afternoon would give the club a .500 record under the interim skipper. If they keep anything resembling these results going over the final two months, we could hear calls to erase that “interim” tag from his job title.