Has run started? Hamels, Phils win third straight

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Has run started? Hamels, Phils win third straight

BOX SCORE

Cole Hamels was kickin’ you-know-what and taking names. The crowd was electric. And the home team won for the third straight day.
 
Yes, it felt a little like old times at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday night. With the ballpark in a full roar, Hamels stared down a big threat from the Washington Nationals in the eighth inning and pitched the Phillies to an important 4-2 win (see Instant Replay).
 
“That was the most exciting eighth inning I’ve had in a long time,” Hamels said. “The energy and the intensity were great. It felt like there were 60,000 fans here even though it wasn’t a sellout. That’s what playing in Philly is all about.”
 
The crowd was just 33,502 -- more than 10,000 shy of what the Phillies were drawing during their 257-game sellout streak that ended last August. If they keep playing the brand of ball that they have this month, the crowds will swell again. And, of course, if the Phils keep playing this brand of ball, management will hang on to the veteran players that it has threatened to trade if this team doesn’t make a quick move toward serious contention.
 
The Phils have won six of eight games this month, all against clubs with superior records. They are a game shy of .500 as they send Cliff Lee to the mound on Wednesday night. In the standings, the Phils are 7½ behind first-place Atlanta in the NL East and just 1½ behind second-place Washington.
 
Are the Phillies buyers?
 
Are they sellers?
 
Right now, they are stand-patters. Though GM Ruben Amaro placed huge importance on this 10-game homestand -- the Phils are 4-1 at the halfway point -- there are still three weeks to go before the trade deadline. There’s plenty of time to keep monitoring this team and gauging what it really is, plenty of time to turn this mini-surge into a legitimate run, plenty of time for this mini-surge to prove to be fool’s gold.
 
Michael Young doesn’t want to hear any talk about what lies three weeks ahead.
 
For him, it’s all about the now.
 
“There was so much talk about going on a hot streak and I think that put too much on our plate,” Young said. “We were thinking about games that were a week down the road and that can be counterproductive. We’re doing a much better job bearing down on that night’s game now.”
 
Where did that change in approach come from? A team meeting?
 
“No,” Young said. “No one had to say anything. That just comes from having a veteran team. The vibe we have now is execute that night rather than the big picture.”
 
Young had a big two-run double in support of Hamels in the sixth inning. He was also on the mound with the rest of the infielders when manager Charlie Manuel walked to the mound to speak with Hamels after the Nats loaded the bases with one out in the eighth inning. The Phils were up, 4-1, at the time and the game was in the balance.
 
“We knew he wasn’t going to take Cole out,” Young said. “He was just giving him a breather. Cole was the story tonight. It was his game to win for us. He stepped up and did a great job.”
 
With the bases loaded, Hamels struck out Ryan Zimmerman on three pitches, then won a head-to-head battle with Jayson Werth, getting the former Phillie on a full-count fly ball to center.
 
“He threw a heck of a game,” Manuel said. “Absolutely outstanding. I liked everything about it.”
 
Hamels has rebounded from his little mental health break with two straight gems. The pitcher still doesn’t believe the respite was necessary -- he jokingly called Manuel’s trip to the mound in the eighth “a mental breather” -- but pitching coach Rich Dubee’s brainchild may have worked. Hamels has delivered two straight gems and posted back-to-back wins for the first time since last September. He has allowed just three runs over 15 innings in those two starts, walked one and struck out 12.
 
“I have to be accountable,” Hamels said. “I didn’t get the job done early. I need to take it up a notch from here on out. That’s what I’m trying to do, push myself to the highest level I can.”
 
Hamels doesn’t believe management has reached the point where it’s ready to sell, but he’s taking no chances as July 31 approaches.
 
“We have to give it all we can and we’ll rest at the all-star break,” he said. “We know the caliber of team we have. We’ve been underachieving.
 
“I still think we’re one click away from rolling. We’ve got a couple of weeks to really get going.”

Today's lineup: Odubel Herrera returns vs. King Felix

Today's lineup: Odubel Herrera returns vs. King Felix

With Mark Leiter, Jr. going for his second straight win as a starter (see today's game notes), Pete Mackanin has kept his batting order pretty much the same from Tuesday's night's win.

But there is one change that will stand out. Odubel Herrera will return to the lineup today for the Phils after getting a breather last night. Prior to the game, Herrera talked about how he needs to play a smarter brand of baseball. But he'll get back in today against Seattle star Felix Hernandez.

Daniel Nava will lead off again and play left field with Freddy Galvis right behind him. The Phils' shortstop went 3 for 5 last night and is hitting over .300 for the month of June.

Howie Kendrick sits this afternoon for the Phillies as Tommy Joseph gets the start as designated hitter. That means that Brock Stassi will play first base instead.

Perhaps Maikel Franco can continue to stay hot from the sixth spot. He's hitting .303 as the team's No. 6 batter and will be there again Wednesday.

Here are both teams' full lineups for today's matinee in the Pacific Northwest:

Phillies
1. Daniel Nava, LF
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Aaron Altherr, RF
4. Tommy Joseph, DH
5. Odubel Herrera, CF
6. Maikel Franco, 3B
7. Brock Stassi, 1B
8. Andrew Knapp, C
9. Ty Kelly, 2B

Mariners
1. Jean Segura SS
2. Ben Gamel, LF
3. Robinson Cano, 2B
4. Nelson Cruz, DH
5. Kyle Seager, 3B
6. Mitch Haniger, RF
7. Danny Valencia, 1B
8. Jarrod Dyson, CF
9. Mike Zunino, C

Phillies-Mariners 5 Things: Can Mark Leiter, Jr. make it two straight?

Phillies-Mariners 5 Things: Can Mark Leiter, Jr. make it two straight?

Phillies (25-51) at Mariners (39-40)
3:40 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App. Pregame Live begins at 3 p.m.

After a brutal weekend in Arizona, Tuesday night's late rally was something for Phillies fans to smile about — even if it all happened past midnight Eastern time. It was a second straight strong start for Aaron Nola and his third in the month of June, plus the Phils' bats doubled their entire output from the final games against the D-backs.

Now, the question is: can the Phillies win their first interleague series of the season and their first series overall since the first weekend of June?

1. Fool me once...
Through 12 appearances and 19.0 innings of relief work, Mark Leiter, Jr. showed very little. The 2013 22nd-round pick had tallied just a 4.74 ERA, with 14 walks versus only 12 strikeouts.

So last Friday's starting debut in Phoenix came as somewhat of a surprise — Leiter earned a quality start, tossing six shutout innings of three-hit ball with 5 Ks and only one walk against one of the best teams in all of baseball.

Wednesday afternoon, the nephew of two-time All-Star Al Leiter will have a chance to follow up on that performance against another top-10 offense. When Leiter faced Seattle last month in relief duty in Philadelphia, he went 1.1 innings and surrendered just one hit but put a pair of runners on base that eventually came around to score.

Although Leiter's fastball has sat around only about 91mph this season, he's got a pretty decent repertoire of pitches including a plus curveball — a similar style to Nola, who gave the Mariners trouble last night. If Leiter can have another good outing, he might be able to hang around in the rotation longer than initially expected.

2. Bowing down — or not
Félix Hernández has been one of baseball's better hurlers in the last few seasons. He's racked up double-digit wins every season since 2009, had a career-best 2.14 ERA in 2014 en route to Cy Young honors and is still probably Seattle's best starter stuff-wise.

But this season, King Felix has not entirely been himself, going to the DL in late April before returning just last week. And after a sluggish start to the year, he bounced back with one of his better outings — the Astros mustered only three runs on eight hits against Hernández in six innings of work.

What can we expect against the Phils? Well, the only other time he's faced the Phillies was in 2011, when he also gave up three runs in seven frames. 

But want to guess how many players in that lineup are on this team? Right, exactly zero.

3. Franco's big night
Tuesday was only the second time in his last 13 games that Maikel Franco chipped in a multi-hit performance. His .242 batting average this month is well above those of April and May, but obviously it's nowhere near where the Phillies probably hoped he'd be at this point in the season. Last year at this juncture, he was still only hitting .246.

Still, his HR and RBI numbers aren't that far off, and his solo shot sparked the Phils' crucial surge. He's also cutting down on his strikeouts — although he did last night, it was his first since June 17 and only his 12th this month.

Franco has had better success at the plate since moving down in the lineup. Pete Mackanin had the third baseman hitting sixth last night, where he's gone 20 for 66 with a .303 batting average and .803 OPS.

4. Multi-hit madman
You want to know who is the hottest hitter in the Phillies lineup? Yep, it's Freddy Galvis.

He has 15 hits in his last 40 at-bats and is currently batting .301 for the month. This comes after a month of May when the shortstop hit .188 with 17 strikeouts in 96 at-bats.

Tuesday night, Galvis went 3 for 5 with 2 RBI and a run out of the two-hole, and there's no reason to think he's coming down in the order anytime soon.

5. This and that
• Other than Jean Segura's two-run bomb in the third inning, it was an extremely quiet offensive night Tuesday for a Seattle lineup that brings a ton of pop in the heart of its order. The Mariners' top six batters went a combined 2 for 22 with nine strikeouts against Nola, Joaquin Benoit and Hector Neris.

• Speaking of Neris, last night's perfect ninth inning was part of what's actually been a pretty solid six-week stretch. Sure, he hasn't been lights out but since May 14, Neris has only given up five earned runs on 13 hits in a total of 15.2 innings of work.

• If you're looking for a glimmer of hope, look no further than Allentown. Scott Kingery's second game with IronPigs might've been better than his first as the second base prospect slugged two home runs for the Triple A club.