When fans of opposing teams look at their schedules and see that the Philadelphia Phillies are next up for their favorite baseball team, there still must be many who figure that this will be a great chance for their team to pickup at least a couple of wins.
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Those fans simply have not been paying close enough attention to what is happening around Major League Baseball over the past month. These are certainly not the first-half Phillies, the ones who sunk the club to the bottom of baseball’s standings.
The Phils remained the hottest team in MLB since the All-Star break, raising their record to 16-5 since that point with yesterday’s 5-3 win over the host San Diego Padres at Petco Park.
The win gave them a sweep of the 3-game weekend series, and the club has now gone 5-1-1 in their series since the break. It also raised their overall record under interim skipper Pete Mackanin to 19-19 amid increasing conversation that, should this level of play continue, Mackanin may deserve to have that “interim” tag removed.
The heroes in this Sunday afternoon affair were both familiar and unfamiliar. The familiar included the continuing dynamic combination of new 2nd baseman Cesar Hernandez and new center fielder Odubel Herrera. Each had two hits, scored a run, and drove in a run.
The unfamiliar were starting pitcher Jerome Williams and veteran Chase Utley. It’s not that their names are unfamiliar to Phillies fans, of course, but neither player has contributed much positively this season. That may have begun to change.
Hernandez led off the game with a single, moved up on a Herrera single, and scored on a one-out RBI double off the bat of rejuvenated 1st baseman Ryan Howard to give the Phils an early 1-0 lead off Padres’ starter Andrew Cashner.
In the top of the 6th, Herrera drove his 6th home run of the season to right field, a solo shot off Cashner that made it 2-0. In the bottom of the inning, the Padres finally broke through against Williams when Justin Upton crushed a moon shot solo home run to the upper deck in left field making it 2-1.
Cashner (4-12) would last 6.1 innings, allowing 8 hits and 3 earned runs. Williams (4-8) was even better, giving the Phillies a 2nd consecutive strong outing. The veteran righty went 7 innings, allowing just 5 hits and walking no one. 71 of his 102 pitches went for strikes.
The Phils got that 3rd run off Cashner in the top of the 7th. Freddy Galvis and Carlos Ruiz led off with back-to-back singles, and were sacrificed over to 2nd and 3rd on a perfect bunt by Williams. That was it for Cashner, who was replaced on the mound by Brandon Maurer. Hernandez greeted the new Padres hurler with an RBI single to make it 3-1.
In the top of the 8th inning, it was Utley’s turn to provide some of his old heroics. Pinch-hitting for Williams, Utley slashed a 2-run double to right to push the Phillies lead out to 5-1. The veteran has become the subject of trade rumors, with the Angels apparently following him since his return from the DL this weekend.
The Padres crept closer in their half of the 8th, pulling one run back on a Yangervis Solarte RBI single off Hector Neris. Then in the bottom of the 9th, closer Ken Giles allowed a one-out RBI single to Will Venable to make it 5-3. Giles would shut the door, striking out the final two batters to seal his 6th Save on the season.
The Phils will hope to keep the good times rolling as they begin to slowly make their way back east starting with a trip to the desert of Arizona for a 3-game series with the Diamondbacks, followed by a series in the upper-Midwest against the Milwaukee Brewers next weekend.