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The Phillies just took two out of three in back-to-back series from a pair of first-place teams. This comes after the Phillies went 7-13 against teams with losing records in the past month.
So after they beat the Braves 7-3 on Sunday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park to take another series from a first-place team (see Instant Replay), it remains difficult to figure out the true identity of these Phillies.
“I think we just outplayed them, bottom line,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “They were tough today. They hung right in there. But we got hits when we had to, and they were in situations to do the same thing, but they didn't pull it off. They have a good team. I feel like the games we won we definitely outplayed them.”
Manuel is right on. To beat the Braves on Sunday following a nine-run loss the day before, the Phillies scored six runs with two outs. Three of those runs came on two-out triples by All-Star Dom Brown and Ben Revere, with Brown adding a one-out solo homer (his 23rd of the season) in the fifth.
When the Phillies got men on base against the Braves, they brought them in. Maybe it's owed to the fact that a loss could have painted the team into a corner just weeks before the trade deadline (see story).
At 43-46, the Phillies are 7 1/2 games off the pace in the NL East with seven straight of a season-long 10-game homestand remaining. Sure, there are 79 games to go in the season, but the Phillies understand what they are up against.
“I think they got the message. I think they understand the importance of these games,” Manuel said. “And also, they know the importance of the games all the way up to the trade deadline. I think basically it is that we will go out and play. It’s the same philosophy as we’ve always had, to play as hard as we possibly can and definitely come out with the No. 1 priority of winning the game.”
Added Brown: “We have to go right now. We’re fighting and battling.”
With two runs in the first inning, the Phillies were well on their way to winning on Sunday. Brown’s RBI triple followed Chase Utley’s single. After Michael Young drew a four-pitch walk, Delmon Young singled off Kris Medlen to drive in the second run.
It appeared as if the Phillies were going to squander a chance to score in the fourth when Delmon Young led off with a walk and got to third when Darin Ruf doubled to the corner in right. That’s because Carlos Ruiz and pitcher Jonathan Pettibone made two quick outs to seemingly spoil the threat.
But then Revere tripled to the gap in left-center to clear the bases, and that was about all she wrote.
From there the Phillies leaned on Pettibone to take the game into the sixth inning, when Manuel juggled relievers to the end. To get through the sixth, Manuel used Jake Diekman for one hitter and Justin De Fratus for one more.
In the seventh, J.C. Ramirez recorded two big outs despite allowing a pair of runs. That’s when Antonio Bastardo came in to get four outs and the ball to closer Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth.
For once, the Phillies were efficient. They scored the runs and recorded the outs that were right there in front of them.
How long can the Phillies continue to play with that efficiency remains to be seen. Slugger Ryan Howard will have an MRI on Monday for his injured left knee, and his return from the disabled list is up in the air (see story). As a result, Manuel will use Ruf at first base and Brown in the cleanup spot.
“I’m just going to just keep doing what I’ve been doing and try to improve,” Brown said. “I have to improve my pitch selection and see more pitches and cut down on my strikeouts a little bit.”
It seems as if Brown will be a good replacement for Howard. With 23 homers this season, Brown has the most by a Phillies player before the break since Howard hit 28 in 2008.
Of course, the Phillies went into the break in that year in first place.
The homestand continues on Monday when the Washington Nationals arrive for four games. The pitching matchups for the series:
Monday: John Lannan (1-3, 5.15) vs. Dan Haren (4-9, 6.15)
Tuesday: Cole Hamels (3-11, 4.38) vs. Taylor Jordan (0-1, 2.70)
Wednesday: Cliff Lee (10-2, 2.73) vs. Gio Gonzalez (6-3, 3.14)
Thursday: Kyle Kendrick (7-6, 3.90) vs. Jordan Zimmermann (12-3, 2.57)
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Figure this out …