Manuel unsure if Phils can make second-half run

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Manuel unsure if Phils can make second-half run

PITTSBURGH – Have some doubts that the Phillies can make a second-half run?

So does their manager.

“The question to me is whether we are capable of running off a winning streak,” Charlie Manuel said Tuesday afternoon.

“Are we capable? Can we put together 12 out of 16 [wins]? It’s not impossible, but at the same time I would question that.”

Manuel spoke before the Phillies opened a three-game series at PNC Park against the Pirates, whose 51-31 record is the best in the majors.

The Phillies are teetering on the brink, 9½ games behind the Braves in the NL East and eight games out in the wild-card race. Since their only day over .500 this year -- they were 31-30 on June 6 -- the Phillies are 9-14. 

Can the Phillies get back into the race? They’ve averaged 49 wins in the second half in eight seasons under Manuel. But it might take a lot more than 49 to reach the postseason.

“We’re going to have to play like hell,” Manuel said. “We have to play right, fundamentally well. We have to hit, we have to pitch and catch the ball. But I’ve been saying that two years now, and I’m still saying the same thing.”

Asked what the Phillies should go after at the trade deadline, Manuel was blunt.

“I think we need anybody who can help us improve. If there is any way we can improve, whether it’s a pitcher or a hitter or whatever, any players who can help us improve.”

Meanwhile, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said there’s plenty of people to blame for the Phillies’ recent struggles.

Including himself.

“These guys get paid to play,” he said Tuesday afternoon in the Phillies’ dugout. “They need to do their jobs. I think it’s all of us taking part of it. It’s all of us that are a part of it. It’s a team effort. We all have to be better, including me. ...

“Guys have to start playing better. Only way we can win is if they start playing better. Hitting better, pitching better, running the bases better. Playing better defense.”

The Reds are in the No. 2 wild-card spot, on pace for 92 wins. For the Phillies to catch them, they would have to go 52-26. That’s .667 baseball.

“We can’t let ourselves get too far behind,” he said. “It’s just too much of a haul. It’s the point where we’ve got to start making some hay.”

Under Manuel, the Phillies have played .605 baseball in the second half, second best in the majors since 2005.

“[We’ve been] very, very good in the second half,” Amaro said. “They’ve had an uncanny ability to be able to do that, so we’ll see.

“We haven’t played well enough, that I can tell you. Not to this point, there’s no question about that. I think they’re a better club than they’ve shown so far, but maybe they’re not. ...

“What’s been disappointing for us this year is the fact that we’ve generally had most of our guys on the field for most of the time. Not the whole time. We lost Chase [Utley], we’ve lost Doc [Roy Halladay].

“I felt like we’d be playing a little bit better baseball overall and we haven’t.”

The trade deadline is July 31, and Amaro said these next few weeks will determine what direction the Phillies take.

“Every single day, it’s an assessment of what’s best for the club, what might be best for the club,” he said.

“Right now, we’re putting ourselves in a position to be prepared for anything. Whether we have to go right, left, up or down, we have to be prepared for everything.”

Instant Replay: Phillies 6, Brewers 3

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Instant Replay: Phillies 6, Brewers 3

BOX SCORE

After winning just one of their last 20 series of at least three games from April 24 through July 16, the Phillies have now won two in a row.

The offense stayed hot Sunday afternoon in a 6-3 win over the Brewers. It was the seventh straight game the Phillies scored at least five runs, their longest single-season streak since 2005. Yes, 2005.

Nick Williams hit another home run, Howie Kendrick came up clutch, Jerad Eickhoff spun a quality start and the bullpen that owns the majors' best ERA since June 26 made the lead stand up.

The Phillies are 34-62 as they welcome in the relentless bats of the Houston Astros.

Starting pitching report
Eickhoff had an efficient and mostly stress-free afternoon, allowing two runs on just three hits and facing the minimum in four of his six innings.

Eickhoff's only two walks came in the fifth inning and both Brewers came around to score on Jonathan Villar's bloop single over third base. 

Eickhoff (2-7, 4.71) struck out six and finished his outing by getting Domingo Santana to ground into a double play.

Eickhoff has been very good in two of his three starts since returning from a back strain, striking out 22 in 17 innings.

Brewers right-hander Junior Guerra, their opening day starter, lasted just four innings and was lifted in the fifth with the bases loaded and no outs. All three runs came around to score.

Guerra walked three, struck out three and didn't have any 1-2-3 innings.

Bullpen report
Pat Neshek pitched yet another scoreless inning (with two strikeouts) to lower his ERA to 1.12. The Phillies' top trade candidate has allowed runs in only two of his 43 appearances this season.

Joaquin Benoit allowed a run in the eighth on Ryan Braun's opposite-field double.

Luis Garcia picked up his first save since 2015 with a perfect ninth inning. Hector Neris had pitched two days in a row, and Garcia has been lights-out of late so it was an easy decision for Pete Mackanin.

Garcia's last 15 appearances: 17⅓ scoreless innings, seven hits, 17 strikeouts.

At the plate
The Phillies' four-run rally in the fifth inning was started by an Eickhoff single. He entered Sunday with just one career multi-hit game before singling in each of his two at-bats.

Kendrick had the key hit in the fifth, a bases-loaded single up the middle to plate two runs. 

Williams, who hit a two-run homer an inning earlier, drove in a third run with a groundball that Brewers shortstop Orlando Arcia failed to glove. 

Odubel Herrera capped it off with an RBI single over the shortstop's head.

Williams continues to do major damage to left and center field. His opposite-field home run off Guerra in the fourth inning made him 21 for 39 (.538) with four homers, four doubles and two triples when going up the middle or to the opposite field.

Beyond their record, the Phillies have looked like the worst team in baseball for much of this season, but not right now. With Cesar Hernandez and Kendrick back, Williams and Herrera raking and Maikel Franco seeing the ball well, this lineup is pretty deep at the moment.

Franco walked twice, flipping the bat excitedly after the second free pass. Over his last 35 games, Franco has as many walks (15) as strikeouts.

Up next
The Phillies' 10-game homestand continues with a series against the American League-best Houston Astros (65-32). 

All three games are 7:05 p.m. start times.

Monday: Vince Velasquez (2-5, 5.14) vs. Brad Peacock (8-1, 2.49)

Tuesday: Nick Pivetta (3-5, 5.58) vs. Charlie Morton (7-4, 4.18)

Wednesday: Aaron Nola (7-6, 3.38) vs. Mike Fiers (7-4, 3.59)

MLB Notes: Astros place Colin Moran on DL after foul ball to the face

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MLB Notes: Astros place Colin Moran on DL after foul ball to the face

BALTIMORE -- Houston Astros rookie Colin Moran has been placed on the 10-day disabled list with a facial fracture, and the third baseman remained hospitalized Sunday to receive treatment for the injury.

Moran fouled a ball off his face Saturday night in the sixth inning of Houston's 8-4 win over the Orioles. His face was bloodied and he had difficulty retaining his balance before being carted off the field.

Moran's overnight stay in the hospital enabled him to shake some of the nausea, but he remained in pain.

"Obviously he's not feeling very well. He's stable," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said Sunday, adding that the fracture is in the left cheek area.

Moran's eye, initially a concern, is fine, Hinch said.

Hinch said Moran will stay in a Baltimore hospital "for the foreseeable future until they decide what is next."

Playing his first game of the season Friday night, Moran hit his first big league home run and his first triple.

The 24-year-old appeared in nine games with Houston last season and was with Triple-A Fresno before being recalled last week.

"He was certainly trying to make his way into a little bit more playing time," Hinch said. "Obviously this is setback for him."

Hinch said Moran is expected to make a full recovery, though there is no timetable for his return.

The Astros filled out the 25-man roster by recalling first baseman Tyler White from Fresno.

White hit .299 with 19 doubles, 19 home runs, and 69 RBIs in 91 games with Fresno. He made the Astros' opening day roster in 2016, but this will be his first action this year.

RAYS: Reliever Romo acquired from Dodgers
LOS ANGELES  -- The Los Angeles Dodgers have traded reliever Sergio Romo to the Tampa Bay Rays in a deal between playoff contenders.

The NL West-leading Dodgers sent Romo and cash to the Rays for a player to be named or cash. The trade was announced after Tampa Bay, which holds an AL wild-card spot, lost to Texas on Saturday night.

Romo was designated for assignment by the Dodgers on Thursday. The 34-year-old righty was 1-1 with a 6.12 ERA in 30 appearances for Los Angeles.

Romo spent his first nine seasons with San Francisco before signing with the Dodgers this year. He is 3-1 with four saves and a 3.09 ERA in 27 postseason games, including six scoreless innings in helping the Giants win three World Series championships.