Phillies Blast Their Way Back to .500
By Matt Veasey
The Philadelphia Phillies blasted past the host Brewers on Saturday night at Miller Park in Milwaukee.
You had to think that entering this series, the Brewers and their fans looked at the Phillies and recent history and thought that this weekend would be a great time for the Brew Crew to get to the .500 mark and perhaps make a surprise early move in the National League Central Division.
Part of that reasoning would have come from the fact that both teams came in with identical 7-9 records, the Brewers were playing in the friendly confines for their home ballpark, and finally that Milwaukee won all seven of the games between the two teams a year ago.
What the Brewers didn’t figure on was that the Phillies are clearly getting better. While the Phils still have plenty of weak links in their lineup, they have begun to put a few pieces in place that can take over a game.
Those pieces produced last night as the Phillies won for a 2nd straight night, taking down the hosts by a 10-6 score. Now it’s the Fightin’ Phils who are back at the .500 mark, and the host Brew Crew who are struggling not to drown early in this 2016 season.
On Saturday night it was the dynamic pair of center fielder Odubel Herrera and 3rd baseman Maikel Franco who did most of the damage for the Phillies.
As the leadoff man, Herrera went 3-4 with a home run and walked twice, scored four runs, and stole two bases. Franco crushed his 5th home run of the season, his 3rd in the last two nights as he continues to roll out of the slump that he carried into this series.
Herrera became the first player in Phillies history with that line: three hits, two walks, a homer, four runs scored, and two steals in a single game. When you are the first to do something positive in the history of a 133-year old franchise, you’ve done something special.
The Phillies also received production from an old favorite, as catcher Carlos Ruiz chipped in with a pair of hits, a run scored, and an RBI. Young outfielder Tyler Goeddel, who has been struggling mightily, got a bit untracked with a pair of hits of his own, including his first big league RBI.
Another story on this night was the struggling pitching on both sides. The two staffs combined for 387 pitches in a game that dragged on for an even four hours.
Part of the problem from the Phillies side was the early loss of starting pitcher Charlie Morton, who injured himself while trying to leg out a grounder in the top of the 2nd inning. Morton’s left leg locked up as he ran down the first base line, and he crumpled to the ground in a heap.
Morton was immediately helped off the field, and the team held its breath as it hoped the veteran had not done serious damage to a knee. As it turns out, the right-hander suffered a strained ham string. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list following the game.
That began a parade of relievers sent in by manager Pete Mackanin over the final eight innings, a few good, a couple really bad. Brett Oberholtzer was first out, with the hope that he could perhaps eat up much of the remainder of the game.
Instead, the lefty was bad right from the outset. He allowed three earned runs on three hits and two walks over just two struggling innings. Amazingly, and perhaps to highlight just how misleading the statistic can be at times, Oberholtzer (1-0) would ultimately be credited with the ‘Win’ in this game.
Andrew Bailey then came on, making his first-ever big league appearance for his hometown team. Bailey is from Voorhees Township, New Jersey and grew up a Phillies fan. The 2009 American League Rookie of the Year tossed two shutout innings, allowing a hit and a walk. He was helped along by an incredible defensive gem by Franco to rob Brewers’ star Ryan Braun in the bottom of the 5th inning.
Bailey was followed to the mound by David Hernandez, who also proceeded to toss a pair of shutout frames. Thanks to their work and the offensive heroics of Franco and Herrera, the Phils took a 7-4 lead into the bottom of the 8th inning.
On the Brewers side, starter Chase Anderson was awful, allowing six earned runs on eight hits while walking four batters over four innings in which he tossed 99 pitches.
The Brewers made a serious move in the home 8th, scoring twice off Dalier Hinojosa and nearly going ahead. Chris Carter began the frame with a solo home run that made it 7-5. When the next two batters reached base, the Brewers brought the go-ahead run to the plate.
Each of the next two batters took a serious run at putting the home nine on top. Alex Presley powered a shot to left field that looked like trouble off the bat, but ultimately settled into the glove of left fielder David Lough for the first out.
Then came pinch-hitter Aaron Hill, who drove a ball high and deep to center field that looked destined for the stands. Instead, the ball hung up and dropped down into Herrera’s glove for the 2nd out.
Mackanin had seen enough. He brought lefty Elvis Araujo in to pitch, and Araujo got the Phils out of the jam by quickly inducing a ground out to shortstop Freddy Galvis.
The Phillies now went to the 9th with a narrow 7-6 lead. Ruiz led off with a single. He was quickly bunted over to 2nd base by Goeddel, and moved to 3rd on a ground out.
Then with two outs, Cesar Hernandez doubled home Chooch to make it 8-6. When Herrera followed with a two-run blast to dead center field, the lead was up to the 10-6 final score. These were the first runs allowed all season by Milwaukee closer Jeremy Jeffress.
Jeanmar Gomez came on to set the Brewers down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 9th, and the Phillies were back at the .500 mark with a 9-9 record. It is the latest in the season that the club has reached back to even in the standings since May of 2014.
The Phils now sit a surprising 3rd place in the NL East, and will look to push to a winning record with a series sweep on Sunday afternoon. The club then has the day off on Monday as they travel back east to take on the Washington Nationals from Tuesday through Thursday at Nationals Park.