David Buchanan auditions for job in Phillies' win

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David Buchanan auditions for job in Phillies' win

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Here’s a fun fact. Or maybe it’s a depressing fact. Depends on your perspective. Either way, hey, it’s a fact: At present, Cole Hamels is the only Phillies pitcher who is 1) healthy and 2) under contract for next year. A.J. Burnett, who will turn 38 in January, has an option. So it’s pretty much just Hamels.

Upon reflection, that probably falls closer to the depressing end of the fact spectrum.

The Phillies might as well hang help wanted signs all over Citizen Bank Park. Now hiring starting pitchers for 2015.

As baseball games go, Wednesday’s outing at Citizens Bank Park between the last-place Phillies and the equally awful Astros -- who are somehow not in last place thanks to the unthinkably bad Rangers -- didn’t offer much intrinsic entertainment value. One bad team (the Phillies) beat the other bad team (the Astros), 10-3. Some quick notes about that for the handful of you who can’t get enough baseball: It was the first time the Phillies have won back-to-back series at home all season. And the Phillies scored more runs in the first inning (five) than they did in their previous four games combined (four).

OK. So that’s enough of that.

Aside from adding a meaningless win to the Phillies’ record and one more loss to Houston’s ledger, Wednesday functioned as another audition for next year’s pitching staff. David Buchanan had a tryout earlier this season. When Cliff Lee went down with an elbow injury (again) last week, Buchanan got a call back. If Buchanan hopes to get a leading role in the Phillies' deteriorating drama next year, it would help if he performed well with the big-league lights on him between now and the end of the season.

Against the Astros, Buchanan threw 102 pitches (68 for strikes) over 6 1/3 innings, giving up nine hits and three earned runs. He struck out five and didn’t allow a walk.

“Your objective is to be successful at the big-league level,” Buchanan said about getting sent down and called up again. “The stuff I was learning, I tried to take it down to [Triple A] Lehigh [Valley] and continue to work on it and build on what I was doing up here.”

Buchanan’s first stint with the Phillies this season featured mixed results. He went 5-5 with a 4.40 ERA. In 59 2/3 innings, Buchanan gave up nine home runs, but the 25-year-old got better as he went along. He surrendered 10 hits to the Nationals in his worst start in early June, then made seven straight appearances in which he allowed six or fewer hits.

Wednesday’s return to the majors was a good outing for Buchanan. Considering the uncertainty surrounding the Phillies' starting rotation, it's not unthinkable to imagine Buchanan winning a big-league job with the Phillies as this season bleeds into next.

“Yeah, it’s a good opportunity for him,” Ryne Sandberg said. “He made a good showing when he was here with us, and now he’ll have some starts. It’s an opportunity for him to show what he can do, to learn from it, to get better, and gain experience and continue to impress.”

Buchanan got his first major-league hit and RBI in the first inning against the Astros -- then he got thrown out at second base on the same play while trying to stretch a single into a double. Oops. The kid got excited.

“I did that in spring training and I had the same result -- I got thrown out,” Buchanan said. “I think from now on, I’ll stay at first base.”

Did he think he had the extra bag?

“I was safe,” Buchanan said with a smirk. “I was safe.”

Best of MLB: Royals storm back in 9th inning for win over Blue Jays

Best of MLB: Royals storm back in 9th inning for win over Blue Jays

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Whit Merrifield hit a two-run, two-out double that capped a four-run rally in the ninth inning, and the Kansas City Royals beat the Toronto Blue Jays 5-4 on Friday night to reach .500 for the first time since April.

With their 10th win in 12 games, the Royals improved to 36-36. They were 6-6 before play on April 20, then went on a nine-game losing streak that night and dropped as low as 10-20, seven games out of first place. They trail AL Central-leading Cleveland by three games.

Toronto took a 2-1 lead into the ninth and extended it when Josh Donaldson and Justin Smoak hit RBI singles off Joakim Soria (4-2) (see full recap).

Dodgers cruise past Rockies for 8th straight win
LOS ANGELES -- Yasiel Puig homered and left-hander Alex Wood kept his record perfect as the streaking Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the NL West rival Colorado Rockies 6-1 on Friday night for their eighth consecutive victory.

The Dodgers have won 14 of their last 15 games. They have scored at least six runs in seven consecutive games.

Wood (8-0) allowed one run in six innings. He gave up only three hits and walked two, retiring his last 10 batters.

The Dodgers have homered in 15 consecutive games, tied for fourth-longest streak in club history. The last time they managed it was in 1977. Their record is 24 consecutive games with a home run.

Rookie left-hander Kyle Freeman (8-4) allowed five runs and a career-high 10 hits and three walks in six innings (see full recap).

Torreyes hits walk-off single to lift Yanks over Rangers
NEW YORK -- Ronald Torreyes hit a game-winning single with two outs in the 10th inning after midnight, and the New York Yankees edged the Texas Rangers 2-1 on a rainy Friday night for just their second win in 10 games.

Brett Gardner lined a tying home run with one out in the New York ninth off closer Matt Bush. After Chasen Shreve (2-1) escaped a bases-loaded jam in the top of the 10th, Torreyes kept the Yankees atop the AL East.

Yu Darvish and Masahiro Tanaka kept it scoreless into the late innings in the first major league meeting between the Japanese stars (see full recap).

Mark Leiter Jr. picks up 1st big-league win as Phillies cool off Diamondbacks

Mark Leiter Jr. picks up 1st big-league win as Phillies cool off Diamondbacks

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PHOENIX -- The clubhouse was beginning to clear and still the star of the game had not yet emerged from the shower.

"He's in there cleaning the guacamole and mayo out of his hair," Cameron Rupp said with a laugh.

Eventually Mark Leiter Jr. made it out of the shower and over to his locker where equipment man Phil Sheridan presented him with three game balls, souvenirs from not only his first big-league start but his first big-league win, as well.

"It's something I'll never forget," the 26-year-old right-hander from Toms River, N.J., said pitching six shutout innings to backbone the Phillies' 6-1 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on Friday night (see Instant Replay).

"I’ll be honest, I was probably more excited for this than I was for my major-league debut. To go out there and contribute to a win is what I was hoping to do."

Leiter, a 22nd-round draft pick by the Phillies in 2013, had never made it onto the 40-man roster until the Phils needed a reliever in mid-April and gave him a shot after he'd gotten off to a good start at Triple A. He spent six weeks in the majors and made 12 relief appearances before being sent back to Triple A the first weekend of June.

Leiter worked as a starter during his time back at Triple A. He pitched six shutout innings against Syracuse in his last start and got the call to come back up when Jerad Eickhoff went on the disabled list with a back strain earlier this week.

Leiter's return assignment was not easy: The Diamondbacks are one of the best hitting clubs in the majors and the best on their home turf. They entered the game scoring 6.48 runs per game at home and with an .886 OPS, both major-league bests.

None of that fazed Leiter.

"In my opinion, this is the big leagues and it doesn’t matter who the lineup is," he said. "They all have the ability to hit and hit well. They’re all big-leaguers and they've earned their right to be big-leaguers. I was just trying to pitch to the team you're facing that day."

Leiter trusted his low-90s fastball and commanded it well. He mixed in his secondary stuff and kept the D-backs off-balance with his splitter. He scattered three hits, walked one and struck out five. He showed no fear.

"Great performance," manager Pete Mackanin said. "He made it look easy. He made a lot of good hitters look bad with his split. For him to come up and do that to a real good hitting team was outstanding."

Leiter's dad, Mark Sr., pitched for the Phillies in 1997 and 1998. He made the trip in from New Jersey to watch his son's first big-league start.

"I guess they found him on TV," Leiter said. "That's what they were telling me. I'm sure he wasn't too pleased they found him because he was probably stressed out. But I think it was probably worth him coming out here. He's probably happy."

How could he not be?

Leiter's teammates were definitely happy.

They treated Leiter to a raucous postgame dousing that included as many different condiments as could be found in the clubhouse dining room. One laughing player had a bottle of ketchup in his hands. Another had a squeeze bottle of honey.

And then there was the guacamole and mayo that Rupp mentioned.

"In his first major-league start, to come up here and do that in what is known as a good hitters’ park - that proves Mark is pretty strong between the ears," Tommy Joseph said. "He's been one of those under-the-radar guys that people have doubted, but his mentality and ability to prepare are second to none."

Joseph played a big role in the win, smacking a two-run homer in the ninth inning to give the Phillies some breathing room. Maikel Franco also had a big home run and Freddy Galvis contributed an important triple that led to a Phillies' run in the first inning.

The Phils still have the worst record in the majors at 24-48, but they've won two in a row, both on the back of good starting pitching performances. Aaron Nola pitched 7 1/3 innings of one-run ball on Thursday.

And Leiter delivered on Friday.

"It's good to see those back-to-back," Mackanin said.