MIAMI – Charlie Manuel wasn’t about to kid himself.
In talking about the reasons for the Phillies’ bats waking up in a 7-3 win over the Miami Marlins on Tuesday night (see Instant Replay), Manuel cited the following:
• Better swings, especially from Delmon Young.
• Improved patience at the plate.
• And the Marlins’ decision to remove rookie right-hander Jose Fernandez after five innings.
“Maybe one of the best things was they took him out,” Manuel said with a laugh.
Fernandez, Miami’s 20-year-old phenom, had pitched 13 scoreless innings against the Phillies in two earlier starts this season. Tuesday night he allowed just one run -- a solo homer to Young -- before being lifted for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the fifth. Marlins manager Mike Redmond’s decision made sense because his team was down 1-0 with a runner on third and the pinch-hitter, Jordan Brown, got the run home. Fernandez’s pitch count was also a factor in the decision. He was at 79 pitches and the Marlins are trying to be cautious with his workload so he’ll have the bullets to torment NL East hitters for years to come.
Regardless of the reasons behind Fernandez’s exit, the Phils were happy to see him go. They collected 10 hits and scored six runs against Miami’s bullpen. After scoring just four runs in the previous three games, that qualified as an explosion for the offensively challenged Phillies.
“It was good to see our guys get some hits,” Manuel said.
Tyler Cloyd was the beneficiary of that offense. In his second start filling in for Roy Halladay, Cloyd held Miami to two runs over seven innings. Cloyd now has as many wins as Cole Hamels, who has been a victim of criminally poor run support. When Cloyd left the mound after the seventh inning Tuesday night, he received handshakes and back pats in the dugout. Hamels was one of the first to congratulate Cloyd. It was not known whether Hamels whispered, “Why can’t I get some of those runs?” to Cloyd.
Cloyd was 1-4 with a 6.57 ERA in seven starts at Triple A this season. He is 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA in two starts with the big club. In 13 1/3 innings with the Phils this season, he has allowed 10 hits, four runs and five walks while striking out nine.
“I’m definitely keeping the ball down a lot better here than I was in Triple A,” Cloyd said. “Hopefully I can stay up here and get some more starts.”
Ryan Howard returned to the lineup after missing two games with a sore left knee. But as Howard came back to provide three hits and three RBIs, Chase Utley went down with a rib cage injury during batting practice. Utley was not available to reporters after the game. He will be evaluated on Wednesday. It would not be surprising to see him miss some time. Teams are usually very cautious with rib cage (oblique) strains because they can linger and become more serious if not treated aggressively at the outset.
“When he took a swing, he felt a little burn, a pain in his rib cage,” Manuel said. “Sometimes if you keep playing that can get more serious and you lose time. It’s hard to breathe, really hard to swing. We’ll see. Hopefully we don’t lose him for very long.”
Halladay, Mike Adams, Carlos Ruiz and John Lannan are already on the DL. Losing Utley would be a significant blow to the Phillies as they try to get to the .500 mark. Tuesday night’s win pushed them to two games under .500 for the eighth time since April 22. They have lost the next game each time.
Howard keyed a four-run seventh inning with a bases-loaded single that scored two runs. Jimmy Rollins, Ben Revere and Michael Young all reached base on infield singles ahead of Howard.
Howard’s three hits were encouraging. So, too, was the way Delmon Young swung the bat. He had entered the game hitting .192, but hit two balls with authority, a homer to left and a double to center. If he can get going ... well, you’ve heard that before. Actually, with the uncertainty surrounding Utley, it’s imperative that Young get going.
“We’re trying to get him to click,” Manuel said. “We think he can hit. He’s 27 years old. He’s got a lot of baseball left in him. It’s just a matter of him getting some more at-bats and getting going. That’s why we want to play him.”
Young said his timing at the plate was much improved.
“I was able to see pitches early and recognize them tonight,” he said. “We haven’t been scoring many runs and I haven’t been contributing like I’m capable of. This was good. Hopefully we can carry it into tomorrow and the rest of the trip because we’re going to need to score runs against the clubs we’re going to be playing.”