Phillies show fight in comeback win over Rockies

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Phillies show fight in comeback win over Rockies

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DENVER -- How do you figure this one? The Phillies came into baseball’s ultimate hitter’s park with the third-worst bullpen ERA (4.51) in the majors Friday night. And, of course, that bullpen held the majors’ second-highest scoring team scoreless for 4 2/3 innings.

That’s almost as hard to believe as a team getting 16 hits and scoring just three runs.

After losing their fifth straight game earlier this week, the Phillies have put together a modest, and improbable, two-game winning streak. One night after the aforementioned 16-hit victory in Minneapolis, the Phils ventured into Coors Field on Friday night and rallied for an 8-7 win over the Colorado Rockies (see Instant Replay).

Kyle Kendrick’s specialty since moving into the rotation last August has been keeping his team in ballgames, but he didn’t do that in this one. He was roughed up early and often and left the game trailing, 7-2, in the fifth inning. A sextet of relievers held the Rockies scoreless the rest of the way and the offense, led by Freddy Galvis’ four RBIs in two innings, surged for six runs to go on top.

Good work with the bats.

Good work out of the ‘pen.

There was one other thing the Phillies benefited from in this game.

Instead of rolling over and taking another loss, they showed some guts in pulling out a win.

“I hope we did,” manager Charlie Manuel said.

Manuel revealed that he had a little talk with his position players in the indoor batting cage before the game.

Was it more Bobby Knight or Knute Rockne?

“A little bit of both,” he said.

Manuel added, “I thought it was good. I wanted to talk to them about our base running, and leads and who we are and how we’ve been doing and what we have to do.

“We’re going to get better. And we have to.”

As poorly as the Phillies have played recently, they are just 6½ games behind first-place Atlanta in the NL East. They are 3-5 on this road trip and, as bad as it has been, they still have a chance to go .500 on it if they win Saturday and Sunday. That would bring them right back to the .500 mark for the season.

There were a bunch of key moments in Friday night’s win.

Reliever Jeremy Horst entered a 7-2 game with runners on base in the fifth and got a big double play ball to keep the game in check. Mike Stutes followed with a scoreless inning in the sixth. The Phils took the lead in the top of the seventh against Wilton Lopez, the reliever they nearly traded for last winter before having health concerns, and Jake Diekman, just up from Triple A, and Justin De Fratus protected it.

Mike Adams and Jonathan Papelbon closed it out. Papelbon struck out dangerous Michael Cuddyer -- it was the Phils’ only K of the game -- with a runner on second for the second out and got Todd Helton on a ground ball to end the game.

Galvis had been 1 for 22 on the trip before belting a two-run triple to highlight a three-run sixth. He smacked another two-run triple -- past the aging Helton at first -- into the right-field corner to highlight another three-run inning in the seventh. Jimmy Rollins, who did not start because of a sore foot and hip, put the Phils ahead with a pinch-hit single. Of course, those two hits don’t happen if John Mayberry Jr. doesn’t work an eight-pitch walk with two outs.

“That was a good comeback for us,” Manuel said.

“A good team win,” Galvis said. “Everyone did their job. That’s good for us.”

Manuel was particularly pleased with his bullpen, especially how some of the youngsters responded.

“That’s how you grow and build confidence,” he said.

Despite his poor outing, Kendrick was all smiles after the game. It isn’t often a Phillies starting pitcher gets lit up then gets off the hook because his teammates exploded for a bunch of runs.

“Obviously, it wasn’t my night,” he said. “I couldn’t make a pitch. But the offense and the bullpen picked me up.”

Best of MLB: Manny Machado in center of bad blood as Red Sox beat Orioles

Best of MLB: Manny Machado in center of bad blood as Red Sox beat Orioles

BALTIMORE -- A tempestuous three-game series between the Red Sox and Baltimore wound up with Matt Barnes being ejected for throwing a fastball behind the head of Orioles star Manny Machado in Boston's 6-2 victory Sunday.

Barnes' ejection was the latest facet of this tense rivalry between AL East rivals. His high, very inside pitch came two days after Machado took out Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia with a spikes-high slide.

Pedroia watched from the dugout for a second straight day Sunday with knee and ankle injuries. Machado apologized with a text message on Friday night, but that evidently wasn't the end of it.

When Machado batted in the sixth inning, Eduardo Rodriguez threw three pitches down and in near the knees. He came up again in the eighth and Barnes' pitch whizzed behind Machado and hit his bat. The ball hit Machado and rolled foul, and plate umpire Andy Fletcher tossed Barnes (see full recap).

Bour's 3-run homer lifts Marlins past Padres
SAN DIEGO -- Justin Bour hit a three-run homer to cap the six-run sixth inning and help the Miami Marlins to a 7-3 victory Sunday against the San Diego Padres.

The first six Marlins batters reached and scored in the sixth, helping Tom Koehler (1-1) to his first win of the season.

San Diego's Luis Perdomo came off the disabled list and shut down the Marlins through five before hitting the wall in the sixth. Martin Prado hit a leadoff single, Christian Yelich walked and Giancarlo Stanton hit an RBI single to chase Perdomo.

Craig Stammen (0-1) came on and allowed Marcell Ozuna's RBI double just past the glove of first baseman Wil Myers and J.T. Realmuto's RBI single to left before Bour hit a no-doubter to right field, his third.

Kevin Quackenbush relieved and got three straight outs (see full recap).

Astros use 2-run 10th to beat Rays
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Brian McCann and Yuli Gurriel both had RBI singles in the 10th inning, and the Houston Astros rallied from an early four-run deficit to beat the Tampa Bay Rays 6-4 on Sunday.

Carlos Beltran opened the 10th by drawing a walk from Ryan Garton (0-1) and went to second on Jose Altuve's single. After reaching third on Carlos Correa's fly to center, Beltran scored to make it 5-4 on McCann's hit to right.

Gurriel's two-out single put Houston ahead 6-4.

Luke Gregerson (1-1) went a scoreless ninth before Ken Giles got three out for his fifth save.

The Astros tied it at 4 on pinch-hitter Evan Gattis' sacrifice fly off closer Alex Colome, who was bidding for a two-inning save, in the ninth.

Brad Miller had an RBI triple, Steven Souza Jr. hit a two-run homer, and Jesus Sucre added a run-scoring single as the Rays went up 4-0 in the first (see full recap).

With new body, new swing, Cesar Hernandez keying Phillies' late-game power surges

With new body, new swing, Cesar Hernandez keying Phillies' late-game power surges

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A constant theme during the Phillies' playoff run from 2007-11 was that even when the offense was sputtering, it never felt like they were out of a game. That group of players picked up so many late hits and mounted so many comebacks that even a five-run deficit heading into the final three innings felt like a winnable game.

The 2017 Phillies are a much different, much less experienced, much less powerful team, but their late-game offense has been a surprisingly fun development this April.

The Phillies used back-to-back-to-back home runs in the eighth inning Sunday to pick up a 5-2 win over the Braves and a series sweep (see Instant Replay). Cesar Hernandez hit a go-ahead, two-run shot off hard-throwing reliever Arodys Vizcaino. Aaron Altherr followed with a solo shot on the next pitch. The Braves switched pitchers, then Odubel Herrera hit a solo homer of his own.

Just like that, ballgame.

The Phillies lead the majors with six home runs in the eighth inning. That's more than the Cubs, Red Sox, Rockies, Angels, Mariners, Pirates, White Sox, Tigers, Rangers, Giants and Astros have combined.

They've scored 14 runs in the eighth inning and 27 in innings 7-9. Both figures rank third-best in the National League behind only the Diamondbacks and Nationals.

Unexpected late-game heroics and unexpected power from some unlikely sources.

"It's always a bonus to have a team like that," manager Pete Mackanin said. "These guys pull for each other. We have a good bench, we have some interchangeable players that can step in and do a good job. ... They're fighters and it's good to see."

Hernandez continues to open eyes with his developing power. He has four home runs through 18 games after hitting six all of last season. He has more extra-base hits (nine) than Giancarlo Stanton, Kris Bryant, Paul Goldschmidt and Robinson Cano, among many others.

And he's done it without sacrificing his eye at the plate and slap-hitting ability. Hernandez is hitting .338 through 80 at-bats.

Hernandez gained muscle over the winter and reported to spring training looking noticeably bigger, but Mackanin credits the power surge to a change in his swing plane.

"He had an uppercut swing," Mackanin said. "He worked underneath the ball, which made him a low-ball hitter. I think the fact that we convinced him to level out his swing and stay on top of the ball -- work above the ball and work your way down through the strike zone -- I think has not only given him more power but also (the ability) to hit more line drives and use the whole field."

Makes sense. Managers, hitting coaches and players talk all the time about how you don't hit a home run when you're trying to hit a home run, you hit one when you're thinking up the middle and catch the ball with the barrel.

Hernandez hasn't lofted more balls because he's trying to loft them, he's done it by getting stronger and developing a more consistent swing.

"He's an on-base guy and a leadoff hitter and now I'm starting to think of him as a cleanup hitter as well," Mackanin said jokingly. "It is nice. It's good to see. He's not trying to hit home runs. He's trying to hit line drives and when you work above the ball and level your swing out and you hit the bottom half of the ball, the ball is going to go up with a line-drive swing. Because of that, he's hitting more gaps and hitting for more power."

In a way, it's similar to what Herrera did last season, jumping from eight home runs as a rookie to 15 as a sophomore as he continued learning the strike zone, learning major-league pitchers and learning of his own capabilities.

"I love watching Cesar hit the ball," Herrera said. "He has a beautiful swing and he makes great contact on the ball. It's great to be behind him."

With Hernandez leading off and Herrera batting third, the top of the Phillies' lineup has gotten on base a ton. They've gotten a .384 on-base percentage from the 1-3 spots in the order. Just imagine how many additional runs the Phillies would have produced to this point if Maikel Franco or Tommy Joseph were hitting consistently.

"I like all three right there," Mackanin said. "I like Howie Kendrick, also. I'm anxious for him to get back (from the DL) and then we'll go from there. We've got some good things going. We've got a good bench. We've got Altherr, (Daniel) Nava, (Andres) Blanco. We've got (Andrew) Knapp who's doing a good job behind the plate. I think we're in pretty good shape that way."

It's not going to be an explosive, league-leading offense, but it's certainly a deeper offense than it was a year ago. An addition like Nava, for example, has proven to be underrated and pay early dividends. Remember, he was one of the last men chosen for the opening day roster. So far this April, he's succeeded in every role in which the Phillies have used him.

Despite not playing regularly, Nava has reached base in 16 of his first 31 plate appearances, something no first-year Phillie has done since Jeremy Giambi in 2002.

"Nava is really valuable to us," Mackanin said. "He's a part-time player that gives you good at-bats, quality at-bats. He works the count, obviously the first game of the season he showed us he's got power. Gap power and the occasional home run from both sides of the plate. 

"Watching a guy like that, you can't help but notice. If it was me and I was a free swinger, I'd go up to him and ask him, 'How do I tone it down a little bit?' He just doesn't get himself out."