Phillies open up homestand with win over Padres

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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.

For Rhys Hoskins, it all started with that first home run

For Rhys Hoskins, it all started with that first home run

SAN FRANCISCO — All Rhys Hoskins needed was to get the first one.
 
That's the way power hitters are.
 
They will tell you they don't think about hitting home runs.
 
But they do.
 
"As much as I want to say I wasn't trying to get the first one out of the way, I think it's probably pretty obvious that's what it was," Hoskins said after the Phillies beat the San Francisco Giants, 5-2, Sunday (see game story).
 
He was referring to his first 12 big-league at-bats during the Phillies' last homestand. He went hitless in those at-bats before reaching base on a single in his 13th at-bat and heading to his native California for seven games on his first big-league road trip.
 
Hoskins delivered. He went 8 for 25 with eight RBIs on the seven-game trip. He homered twice in the first game of the trip and three more times before it ended, including on Saturday and Sunday in the Phillies' only two wins of the trip.
 
"I feel like I'm getting into better counts and the results showed this week," the 24-year-old said.
 
Manager Pete Mackanin said he was never worried about Hoskins being over his head.
 
"You know how that goes," he said. "You can't jump to conclusions after 20 at-bats. You might say he's hitting .220 (actually .237), but we can tell from his at-bats he's a much better hitter than that."
 
Hoskins hit 38 homers at Double A Reading last season and 29 more at Triple A Lehigh Valley before coming up earlier this month. After 11 games — and five homers — he feels more like himself.
 
"I just wanted to settle in the box and feel more comfortable in the box and realize it really is the same game, 60 feet, six inches, they still have to throw the ball over the plate," he said. "I think that has a lot to do with it."
 
Hoskins had two hits in Sunday's win, including a home run. He played first base, his natural position. Jorge Alfaro played there Saturday night as manager Pete Mackanin held slumping Tommy Joseph out of the lineup two days in a row. Joseph is hitting just .185 against left-handed pitching this season and Mackanin kept him away from lefties Ty Blach and Madison Bumgarner.
 
With a doubleheader Tuesday against Miami, and two righties pitching for the Marlins, Mackanin is sure to use Joseph in at least one of those games.
 
But how about beyond that? Alfaro has produced at the plate over the last two days and the team officials want to continue to see him. He was already slated to get time behind the plate, but first base has also become a place for him to get occasional at-bats, as it is for Hoskins, as well.
 
How is this all going to shake out?
 
Mackanin said Hoskins "most likely" would continue to get most of his reps in left field, where he's been OK, despite a couple of bad reads, for a relative newcomer to the position.
 
Then Mackanin added: "Let me have the day off (Monday) to think about it. We'll see how we can make this all work."

IronPigs rally to help Phillies end West Coast trip with 2 straight wins

IronPigs rally to help Phillies end West Coast trip with 2 straight wins

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SAN FRANCISCO — Ben Lively, his eyes wide before his eighth big-league start, looked around at his teammates moments before the game.
 
"Dude, this is a really familiar dugout," he told Rhys Hoskins.
 
Indeed. Six of the Phillies' nine starters Sunday afternoon at AT&T Park were recent teammates at Triple A Lehigh Valley. They recently graduated to the majors and on this day joined together in rallying for a 5-2 win over the San Francisco Giants as the Phils closed out a West Coast trip with two wins and five losses (see Instant Replay).
 
It was a very entertaining ball game for several reasons:
 
The Phillies came back from a run down in the eighth inning and scored three times on a succession of five straight singles against Giants reliever Hunter Strickland.
 
Closer Hector Neris pitched himself into a tight spot when he plunked Buster Posey with a first-pitch fastball to load the bases in the bottom of the eighth. Posey took exception with the pitch, said something to Neris and moaned about it to reporters after the game (see video).
 
And then there was the IronPigs. All of the recent additions from Triple A had a hand in the win. All five of the Phillies' runs were driven in by players recently promoted. In Saturday night's win, a cast of recent additions drove in 10 of the Phillies' 12 runs. So, newcomers drove in 15 of the Phillies' 17 runs the last two days.
 
"We were pretty talented down there and I think it's good for this organization to have that kind of burst of energy," Hoskins said. "Hopefully it carries over to the homestand."
 
The IronPigs' impact started with Lively, who was recalled before the start and delivered six innings of two-run ball — "just what we needed," manager Pete Mackanin said.
 
It continued with utility man Pedro Florimon starting in left field, throwing out a runner at the plate and driving in three runs, including the tie-breaking run in the eighth.
 
Jorge Alfaro started behind the plate and drove in the tying run with a base hit in the eighth after coming back from an 0-2 count.
 
In all, the Phillies had five straight one-out hits in that inning — by Hoskins, Maikel Franco, Alfaro, Nick Williams and Florimon. All but Franco was in Triple A until recently.
 
"It's awesome," Lively said. "Everyone is getting an opportunity. A lot of people are making the best of their opportunities. That fires me up more than anything."
 
Two others who had been at Lehigh Valley this season, Adam Morgan and Luis Garcia, chipped in with 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief.
 
Hoskins gave the Phillies a little breathing room in the ninth inning when he bashed his fifth homer in his first 11 games in the majors. All of them came on this trip to his home state with a slew of friends and family in the seats.
 
"I think we could have come away with a couple more wins, obviously, but we're feeling pretty good going home, split the series after dropping the first two," Hoskins said.
 
The wins were the Phillies' only two in the state of California this season. They went 2-11 in the land of the Double-Double.
 
The game was not without some drama. With two outs and runners on first and second in the bottom of the eighth, and the Phils clinging to a two-run lead, Mackanin summoned his closer, Neris, as the dangerous Posey — who had already singled and doubled — stepped in the box.
 
Neris' first pitch, a 95-mph fastball, hit Posey in the side. The usually mild-mannered Posey was angry and said something to Neris before cooler heads prevailed.
 
After the game, Posey was still angry.
 
"I'm pretty certain he hit me on purpose and it's just a shame because I wanted to compete in that at bat," Posey said. "I guess he didn’t feel he could get me out.
 
"It was a big spot. It would have been fun to hit."
 
Neris was incredulous when he heard what Posey said.
 
"Not a chance," he said when asked if he hit Posey on purpose. "I don't want to put the tying run on second base. I don't want to hit anybody in that situation."
 
Mackanin said there was no way Neris threw at Posey.
 
"If Hector hit him intentionally, I'm not real happy with Hector to put the tying run on second base and the go-ahead run on first," Mackanin said. "It doesn't make sense to me."