The Phillies needed a win. That might be a strange thought for a team that had won seven of its last 10 games before Sunday, but this has been a strange season.
Saturday did not go well for the Phillies. They played baseball against the White Sox for nearly eight hours during a doubleheader that also included an unmerciful rain delay. Both games went to extra innings. The Phils won the second matchup.
That wasn’t the problem. The problem was the first game. The Phillies lost on the scoreboard and in the injury department when centerfielder Ben Revere broke a bone between his foot and his ankle. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list, but to hear Ruben Amaro tell it (see story), Revere will be out a lot longer.
A win, then. A win before the All-Star break. A win to continue the team’s recent momentum. A win to lift everyone’s collective spirit after Saturday’s protracted and painful developments.
That’s what the Phillies got on Sunday -- a much-needed victory. The Phillies beat the White Sox, 4-3, at Citizens Bank Park in 10 innings (see Instant Replay). It wasn’t easy. It was the Phillies' third straight extra-inning game in less than 24 hours.
The Phillies had a one-run lead in the ninth inning, but that evaporated when closer Jonathan Papelbon blew his fifth save of the season. (After the game, Papelbon said he was mentally and physically tired.) But while Papelbon made the game drag on, John Mayberry Jr. ended it with a walk-off RBI in the 10th inning. The third and final game of the series lasted three hours and 26 minutes, meaning the two teams played more than 11 hours of baseball between Saturday and Sunday.
“It’s definitely exciting to pull that one out,” Mayberry said. “They were three very hard-fought games. To be able to pull away with two wins is big for us.
“It definitely gives us momentum. And getting us to the .500 mark is also big, just mentally being able to carry that momentum into the All-Star break and then on into the second half.”
The Phils have won five of their last six series. Sunday’s victory pushed the Phillies (48-48) to .500 for the first time since June 7. The last time they went into the All-Star Break with a .500 record or better was 2011 when they were 57-34.
The Phillies are now 6 1/2 games behind the Braves in the National League East. It represents the smallest gap for the Phillies since they were 6 1/2 back on June 22.
At the All-Star break last year, the Phillies were 13 games under .500, 14 games back in the division and 10 games back in the wild card.
“We have to get over .500 and we have to chase down the Braves and the Nationals,” said Cole Hamels, who pitched eight innings, giving up eight hits, two earned runs and no walks while striking out seven. Hamels lowered his ERA to 4.05. Over his last 23 innings, Hamels has allowed 19 hits, four earned runs and one walk while striking out 19. His ERA is 1.56 during that span.
“We have a lot ahead of us,” Hamels continued. “At the same time, take the four days for what we can and come back and plug away for I guess 10 weeks. That’s a lot of baseball. I know we’re a second-half team and we definitely have to show it again.”
Prior to the game, Amaro informed the media that the Phils would likely add at the trade deadline and were “looking for two areas pretty specifically” -- bullpen and center field. That information came in conjunction with an update on Revere whose “prognosis doesn’t sound too good,” according to Amaro. Revere is scheduled to see a specialist Monday, but Amaro said he believes the injury to his centerfielder and leadoff hitter is “something that’s going to take a while.” After hitting just .200 to start the season, Revere went on a tear to raise his average to .305.
The bullpen, meanwhile, has been a concern for much of the season. The Phillies’ relievers entered Sunday with a 4.04 ERA, 19th in the majors.
When asked about the significance of the recent homestand, during which the Phils won seven of 10 games, Charlie Manuel said: “I think we made a statement that we’re going to be a contender. To win our division or a wild card, we still need some help.”