Phillies open up homestand with win over Padres

ap-phillies-aj-burnett.jpg

Phillies open up homestand with win over Padres

BOX SCORE

For a veteran starting pitcher like A.J. Burnett, facing a struggling offensive team like the San Diego Padres can be tricky. Though the Padres have the worst batting average (.218) and have scored the fewest runs in the league, they can be quite aggressive.

Fortunately for the Phillies, Burnett was able to use the Padres’ aggressiveness against them as he pitched the team to a 5-2 victory on Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park (see Instant Replay).

Aided by a three-run homer and a sacrifice fly from Marlon Byrd, some electrifying radar-gun popping relief work from Jake Diekman and the 300th career save for closer Jonathan Papelbon (see story), the Phillies snapped a two-game losing streak and won for just the second time in the last 10 games.

More importantly, the Phillies kicked off a six-game homestand against the Padres (28-36) and last-place Cubs with a chance to stay alive in the NL East for a while longer.

At 26-36, the Phillies are tied with the Cubs for the worst record in the National League. However, the Phillies are just seven games out in the division.

Oh yes, the Phillies are very aware of what’s at stake during the homestand.

“We have an opportunity to climb out of a hole in this homestand and hopefully a lot of the guys in the clubhouse can recognize that and hopefully we can take advantage of that in our own ballpark,” Papelbon said. “Regardless of what’s gone on and our situation, we still have an opportunity to get back in this thing.”

Outings like Burnett’s are a good place to start. After a fielding error by Ryan Howard put runners on the corners with one out, Burnett retired 15 of the next 16 he faced on just 60 pitches. Thanks to the Padres’ aggressiveness, Burnett needed just two or fewer pitches against nine hitters and threw 16 first-pitch strikes to the 27 he faced.

Those 16 first-pitch strikes led to 14 outs.

“They swing. They come out swinging. I feel like I got away with a lot tonight,” Burnett said. “I didn't have a real good hook. I got outs out of it, but not the kind of outs I want. They swing. You have to get ahead and put guys away. I was able to get groundballs out of it.”

Better yet, Burnett was able to escape quickly after the Phillies scored four runs in the fourth inning. Those shutdown innings have been tough to come by for the Phillies during the recent skid.

“That's important. It gets us back in,” Burnett said. “We were swinging the bat good tonight. We came out swinging. I harp on it. It's about time I came through with one of those.”

The Phillies’ offense was spurred by Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in the middle of the lineup. With one out in the fourth, Utley singled home Ben Revere and went from first to third on a single by Howard. That set the table for Byrd’s three-run blast to right off Ian Kennedy.

Two innings later, Utley hit another one-out single and again went from first to third on a single by Howard. This time it only took a sacrifice fly from Byrd to get Utley home.

“We just have to continue to do that, up and down the lineup,” manager Ryne Sandberg said. “We had another chance in the eighth with the bases loaded and no outs, we didn’t capitalize there. I think more good at-bats, three or four or five or six guys in the lineup getting hits and having quality at-bats like we did tonight.”

Take away the eighth when Howard, Byrd and Dom Brown struck out with the bases loaded, the Phillies stranded just one base runner and got home everyone in scoring position.

That type of offense -- and the three-run homer -- has been a missing piece for the Phillies. If Sandberg can get a little more consistency in that aspect of the game, perhaps the Phils won’t be long for the cellar in the NL East.

“[We have to] build on the hits with guys gaining confidence with that,” Sandberg said. “Having everyone up and down the lineup chip in and create some momentum -- we just have to carry it over into tomorrow.”

The three-game series continues on Wednesday night when Cole Hamels (2-3, 3.49) faces right-hander Tyson Ross (6-5, 3.22). Hamels is 8-2 with a 2.39 ERA against his hometown team.

Ross has faced the Phillies three times with one start for a grand total of three innings. His start lasted just two-thirds of an inning when he allowed six runs on five hits and two walks last Sept. 12.

Best of MLB: Indians storm back with 13 unanswered runs in win over Rangers

uspresswire-indians-bradley-zimmer.jpg
USA Today Images

Best of MLB: Indians storm back with 13 unanswered runs in win over Rangers

CLEVELAND -- Francisco Lindor, Lonnie Chisenhall and Carlos Santana each had three RBIs to help the Cleveland Indians rally from a seven-run deficit and beat the Texas Rangers 15-9 on Monday night after manager Terry Francona left the game because he wasn't feeling well.

The Indians came back after trailing 9-2 in the fourth inning to avoid their first four-game losing streak since 2015.

Cleveland did not provide any other details about Francona, who presented Rangers first baseman and former Indian Mike Napoli with his American League Championship ring before the game. Bench coach Brad Mills came out to fetch starter Carlos Carrasco in the fourth inning.

The Indians scored a run in the fourth, four in the fifth, took the lead with five in the sixth and added three in the seventh.

Bryan Shaw (2-2) pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings for the win. Tanner Scheppers (0-1) allowed all three batters he faced to reach the base (see full recap).

Cubs hold off Nationals for win
WASHINGTON -- Wade Davis struck out big league batting leader Ryan Zimmerman with runners on second and third to end Washington's ninth-inning rally, and the Chicago Cubs held off the Nationals 5-4 Monday night.

In jeopardy of being shut out for the first time this season, the NL East-leading Nationals scored four times in the ninth. Their comeback began against Hector Rondon and continued when Davis entered.

With Washington down 5-3, Bryce Harper's single loaded the bases with two outs. Davis threw a wild pitch that scored a run before striking out a swinging Zimmerman, who's hitting .344. The final pitch bounced, and catcher Willson Contreras zipped a low throw to first baseman Anthony Rizzo to close out the victory.

Contreras hit a leadoff home run in his first career game-opening at-bat and Eddie Butler (4-2) worked five scoreless innings to keep the Cubs ahead (see full recap).

Sale strikes out 9 in Red Sox victory
BOSTON -- Chris Sale pitched 6 1/3 overpowering innings with nine strikeouts, Mitch Moreland hit a solo homer for the third straight game and the Boston Red Sox beat the Minnesota Twins 4-1 on Monday in a matchup of two of the AL's top teams.

Dustin Pedroia had two hits and drove in a run and Moreland added a sacrifice for Boston, which kept pace with the New York Yankees atop the East.

Coming off a three-game sweep in Cleveland that had jumped them over the Indians into first in the Central, the Twins' offense was stymied by Sale and three relievers.

Sale (10-3) gave up one run and four hits, increasing his major-league strikeout total to 155. Craig Kimbrel pitched the ninth for his 21st save.

Jose Berrios (7-2) allowed four runs on eight hits in 6 1/3 innings. Chris Gimenez had a solo homer for Minnesota (see full recap).

Sources: Pete Mackanin fined Odubel Herrera for incident in Saturday's game

Sources: Pete Mackanin fined Odubel Herrera for incident in Saturday's game

PHOENIX -- Early Sunday morning, Odubel Herrera was summoned into manager Pete Mackanin's office for a chat.

It wasn't the first time it has happened this season.

But it was the first time this happened:

Mackanin, according to sources, fined Herrera an undisclosed amount of money stemming from an incident in the previous night's game.

The amount of the fine is not known, but it definitely wasn't one of the $1 fines that Mackanin hands out for trivial missteps in the team's kangaroo court. 

This was a disciplinary action.

In Saturday night's game against Arizona, Herrera was caught trying to steal second base for the third out in the top of the sixth inning with the Phillies trailing, 3-2, in what became a 9-2 loss. Herrera took off on pitcher Robbie Ray's first move and was caught in a play that was scored 1-3-4.

The problem wasn’t as much Herrera getting caught — though that hurt in a close game — it was that Mackanin had put the red light on Herrera after he'd reached first base on a two-out single. Herrera often has a green light, but in this case Mackanin killed it because he feared an open first base would have resulted in Arizona walking No. 8 hitter Cameron Rupp to get to the pitcher's spot.

Mackanin would not confirm or deny the fine when asked about it Monday. After a moment of silence, all he would say was, "Base running matters." He then walked away.

Herrera's play this season has been occasionally amazing and often frustrating. He is hitting .333 (33 for 99) with a majors-high 13 doubles in the month of June and leads the Phillies with 75 hits and 31 extra-base hits for the season. 

But there have been times when Herrera has lacked focus, such as last week when he ran through a stop sign at third base in a close game and was picked off third base in another. In Monday's series finale in Phoenix, a 6-1 loss, he struck out three times. He made no effort to run to first base on a dropped third strike in the first inning.

Herrera signed a five-year, $30.5 million contract with the Phillies over the winter. Manager fines are generally just a few hundred dollars and are donated to charity so the one levied by Mackanin won't break Herrera. Nonetheless, it’s noteworthy that Mackanin was moved to such an action.