Phillies respond to Amaro's challenge with win

Phillies respond to Amaro's challenge with win

July 5, 2013, 11:45 pm
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Ruben Amaro Jr. made it clear before the game. The 2013 Phillies are on the clock. Make your move now, boys, or the Yard Sale sign is going up (see story).

Phillies players heeded the general manager’s admonition Friday night and beat the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves, 5-4, at Citizens Bank Park (see Instant Replay).

There are nine games remaining on this final homestand before the All-Star break. The Phillies probably need to win six or seven of them to dissuade Amaro from selling off talent and focusing on future seasons.

It’s all in the hands of the players.

“We just want to win for the sake of winning,” said always-insightful third baseman Michael Young, one of the players that could be on the move if Amaro waves the white flag and sells.

“There are a lot of guys here who’ve played well into October, and we recognize there’s nothing like winning. And if you look at the crowd tonight, there’s nothing like winning in Philly. We’re all competitors and we want to win because of that. Having said that, we know the way things work. We recognize the end of the first half is coming. We want to start making a move.”

Friday night’s win left the Phillies at 42-45. They are 7 1/2 games behind first-place Atlanta. The two teams play 15 more times before the end of the season, but 13 of those games come after the July 31 trade deadline. As Young said, these Phillies need to make their move now – or else the personnel might look a lot different in the final two months of the season.

“They’re in first place and we’re trying to catch them,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “One way to gain ground is to beat ‘em. We’re going to have plenty of opportunities. We just need to win games.

“We better play like hell, come out every day, stay even-keel, go get ‘em and see what happens.

“I’ve got a good feeling for our club right now. If we keep scoring and get good pitching … you never give up.”

The Phils had the right guy on the mound to open an important series – and an important series against the Braves – Friday night. Cliff Lee entered the game with a seven-game winning streak and was 4-1 with a 0.78 ERA (four earned runs in 46 innings) in his previous six starts against the Braves.

It was more of the same in this game as Lee carried a shutout into the seventh inning. He was up 5-0 entering that inning thanks to Humberto Quintero’s two-run homer and RBI double, as well as a long solo homer by Ryan Howard (see story).

But Lee hit a wall in the seventh inning. The intense heat and humidity got to him and so did the Braves’ bats. He got some pitches up in the inning, hit a batter, allowed a single and no-out three-run homer to Dan Uggla. In all, the Braves got to Lee for four runs in the frame, but reliever J.C. Ramirez was able to come on and prevent the lead from completely evaporating.

Lee threw just 83 pitches before exiting. On most nights, he’s just getting warmed up at that point.

“He got real hot and was kind of spent,” Manuel said. “Our bullpen came in a did a good job.”

Lee dismissed the heat and humidity as an excuse.

“It was hot,” he said. “But we all play in the same elements. That’s an excuse. I pitched in Texas and it doesn’t get any hotter than that.”

This was actually the second time that Lee has had trouble with the heat. He suffered some cramping in a warm-weather game earlier in the season.

“He was hot and he perspired a lot,” Manuel said. “Sometimes when it’s real hot you can get mentally fatigued.”

Half of the eight hits that Lee allowed came in the seventh inning. Rookie right-hander Ramirez allowed one of Lee’s runs to score, but otherwise continued to impress as he got two outs in the seventh. Antonio Bastardo and Jonathan Papelbon teamed on two scoreless innings to close it out.

It was just one win, nothing to get all revved up about, but it was a good start to a hugely important 10-game stretch that will have a lot to say about what the rest of this season – and seasons to come – will look like. Now, all attention shifts to Saturday night as the Phils try to keep it up.