Phillies-Astros: 5 things you need to know

Phillies-Astros: 5 things you need to know
August 6, 2014, 10:15 am
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Phillies vs. Astros
7:05 p.m. on CSN

The Phillies love their extra innings.

Ryan Howard walked them off with an RBI single in the 15th inning Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park. It was the Phils' fifth game this season of at least 14 innings, matching 1958 for the most 14-plus inning games they've ever played in a season.

Seems unthinkable to have THAT many marathon games. But it's a testament to the Phils' strong bullpen and weak offense.

Here are four more things you need to know as the Phils play the middle game of a three-game set with the Houston Astros:

Weary 'pen?
The Phillies' relief crew was spectacular on Tuesday night, shutting Houston out for eight innings, allowing just one hit and striking out 14 batters.

Antonio Bastardo stood out from the pack, striking out six batters in his two scoreless frames. Rookie Hector Neris picked up his first major-league win in his first major-league game.

With every member of the bullpen used, the Phils would like to see the returning David Buchanan go deep into Wednesday's game. Ryne Sandberg and Bob McClure would surely like to stay away from Bastardo (33 pitches) and Jake Diekman (30). Jonathan Papelbon also needed 27 pitches to complete the ninth inning.

Buchanan's back
Buchanan earned the Phillies' trust in 10 starts this summer in place of Cliff Lee, so naturally he's back to replace Lee in the rotation for the duration of 2014.

Buchanan received a decision in each of his 10 starts, going 5-5 with a 4.40 ERA. Over his last five, he had a 2.93 ERA. 

The 25-year-old right-hander settled in by keeping the ball low and avoiding hard contact. Yes, he allowed nine home runs in 59 1/3 innings, but surrendered just two over his last five starts at the big-league level. 

And after allowing 10 hits to the Nationals in his worst start on June 3, Buchanan reeled off seven straight starts of six hits or fewer.

With the Phillies' non-existent starting pitching depth, Buchanan figures to be a part of not only the 2014 rotation, but also the 2015 staff. As of right now, Cole Hamels is the only healthy Phillies starter under contract for next year (A.J. Burnett has an option), so Buchanan figures to fight for that No. 5 spot. 

He could be the next Kyle Kendrick. Kendrick pitched well Tuesday night, but it looks like his ninth season with the Phils will be his last.

Hail to the Piece
Howard needed a night like Tuesday. He homered off a lefty to begin the second inning and provided the Phils' only other run 13 innings later when he beat the shift on a sharply hit ground ball with two strikes.

Howard told Phillies sideline reporter Gregg Murphy after the game that he "got tired" of teams intentionally walking Chase Utley in front of him. Whether or not that actually made Howard zone in more, you can't argue with the result. And after a 1-for-25 road trip, Howard needed the homer and walk-off knock in the worst way.

It's been a strange year for the Big Piece, who is hitting .217 with a .299 on-base percentage, 17 homers and 65 RBIs. Howard is actually hitting .230 with a .777 OPS vs. lefties. His OPS vs. righties is nearly 140 points lower, at .639.

Peacock pitches
The Phils face Astros right-hander Brad Peacock. The 26-year-old was ambushed by the Athletics his last time out, allowing seven runs, three homers and 12 baserunners in 3 2/3 innings.

Peacock is 3-7 on the year with a 4.93 ERA. 

Peacock was drafted by the Nationals in the 41st round in 2006 and was then involved in two big trades. On Dec. 23, 2011, the Nats sent him, A.J. Cole, Tommy Milone and Derek Norris to the Athletics for Gio Gonzalez. That move worked out well for both teams.

Then two Februarys ago, the A's sent Peacock and slugger Chris Carter to the Astros for shortstop Jed Lowrie.

Peacock faced the Phillies once, in 2011 as a National. He pitched 5 2/3 innings of shutout ball against that 102-win team. He allowed only one hit, a single by Carlos Ruiz.

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