Phils overcome errors to take series from Nats

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Phils overcome errors to take series from Nats

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Maybe Ruben Amaro Jr. should have gone all tough guy and threatened to make trades back in April. He did that a week ago when the Phillies opened a crucial, 10-game July homestand and since then, well, his team has played outstanding ball.

The Phillies won for the fifth time in seven games on the homestand, beating the Washington Nationals, 3-1, on Thursday night (see Instant Replay).

The Phils have won three straight series, two against first-place teams and one against the team immediately in front of them in the NL East standings.

For the remaining three games of the homestand they will have to avoid playing down to the competition as they host the Chicago White Sox, last place in the AL Central, beginning Friday night.

“We’ve stepped up to the competition,” said Kevin Frandsen, whose 11th pinch-hit of the season broke a 1-1 tie in the seventh inning and made a winner of Kyle Kendrick, who survived a poor defensive showing by his infield.

“Now we need to go out and get another one tomorrow against Chicago. They have a hell of pitching staff.”

The Phillies are back to a game under .500. They have shadow-boxed with that mark for weeks, spending just two days at .500 since early April and just one day over the mark all season -- June 6.

They need to prove to management that they can get over .500 and stay there to avoid having the team broken up by trades in the two-plus weeks that remain before the trade deadline.

“We’re just starting to click,” Frandsen said. “We’re getting some breaks. The first half, we got no breaks.

“We’ve played some good teams. But we’re a good team, too. We’ve got a lot of accomplished guys here and a lot of good, hungry young guys.”

The Phils took three of four from Washington. They beat a top pitcher in the finale. Right-hander Jordan Zimmermann has a league-high 12 wins and entered with the sixth-best ERA in the league (2.45). He was very good Thursday night -- he allowed eight hits, two runs, walked none and struck out six -- but the Phils were able to capitalize with a two-out RBI single by Ben Revere in the fifth and Frandsen’s tie-breaking pinch-hit in the seventh. Darin Ruf led off that frame with a double.

“We beat a really good pitcher, a stud, for sure,” Frandsen said. “Any win is a good win, but you beat a shutdown guy like Zimmermann when they’re trying to even up the series and that’s pretty good.”

Frandsen is 11 for 31 with nine RBIs as a pinch-hitter.

“He’s very valuable,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “As Walter Alston used to say, ‘A guy like that can win you some games.’”

The Phillies made four errors, three by Chase Utley and one by Michael Young, but none came back to haunt.

Manuel credited Kendrick for that.

“He really had to battle,” Manuel said. “We made mistakes and he got us out of it. He overcame the mistakes.”

Kendrick allowed just five hits over seven innings in snapping a two-game losing streak. He got a nice helper from leftfielder Domonic Brown, who gunned down Bryce Harper at the plate in the first inning.

“That was huge,” Kendrick said. “It was a great throw. Could have been a game-changer right there.”

The Phillies will face three lefties in the series against Chicago. The Phils are 9-12 against lefty starters this season.

The Phils are hot, but they still have miles to go before they convince management to hang on for a possible second-half run.

“We’ve got to play hard,” Manuel said. “We’ve got to outplay them. We’ve got to do the same thing against the Chicago White Sox as we did against Washington and the Braves. We’ve got to play as hard or harder. You don’t let up. You stay right at it.”

Vince Velasquez feels the heat in Phillies' Sunday loss to Pirates

Vince Velasquez feels the heat in Phillies' Sunday loss to Pirates

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PITTSBURGH --- Vince Velasquez wasn’t able to stand the heat Sunday afternoon.

The game-time temperature was 89 degrees with humidity to match at PNC Park. The Phillies' right-hander admitted he didn’t handle the weather well.

"You're going to go through various conditions, and it's something that you've got to really take into consideration -- to really lock in, stay hydrated because it can mentally drain you,” Velasquez said. “It kind of took a toll on me but I have to make the best of what I've got.”

Velasquez wound up pitching six innings in the blistering heat but did not factor in the decision as the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Phillies 5-4 on pinch-hitter Adam Frazier’s leadoff home run in the seventh inning, his first in the major leagues, off fellow rookie Edubray Ramos (see Instant Replay).

Velasquez had his worst of his five starts since coming off the disabled list June 26, allowing four runs and seven hits while walking four and striking out five. He threw 107 pitches, 64 for strikes.

In his first four outings after begin activated, he was 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA to raise his record to 8-2.

“Just looking at his body language, he showed that he was struggling to find the strike zone,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. “He didn't have his best location. He did a good job; he just made a couple bad pitches when they scored the two runs. Obviously, he wasn't at his best, but he kept us in the game.”

While that kind of outing can breed confidence in a 24-year-old pitcher, Velasquez took no consolation in it. He was bothered about not being able to hold a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning, giving up a tying two-run home run to Matt Joyce.

“I knew it was my last inning when I went out there and I have to be able to close it out there,” Velasquez said. “I’m disappointed in that. I need to be better in that situation.”

Joyce’s blast came on pitch after Starling Marte doubled on an 0-2 pitch. That, too, annoyed Velasquez.

“That's just a matter of finishing at-bats,” Velasquez said. “You've got to lock in on 0-2 counts when you're ahead. You've got to finish the at-bat. Knowing that that was my last inning, that's where you have to bear down and give it all you've got.”

Ramos then gave up the game-winning homer to Frazier an inning later, the first long ball given up by the 23-year-old right-hander in 14 career outings. The Phillies wound up losing two of three games in the series and are 3-7 since the All-Star break to drop to 10 games under .500 at 45-55 through 100 games.

“It’s a game we should have won but I put us in position to lose it,” Velasquez said.

Report: Phillies preparing for possible Jeremy Hellickson trade to Marlins

Report: Phillies preparing for possible Jeremy Hellickson trade to Marlins

Jeremy Hellickson may be staying in the NL East past the trade deadline. 

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported that the Phillies are scouting the Marlins' minor league teams in advance of a possible Hellickson deal. 

This comes on the heels of a report from a radio host in Miami that Marlins starter Wei-Yin Chen may need Tommy John surgery. Chen left with an elbow sprain during Wednesday's loss to the Phillies and was placed on the disabled list. Ironically, Chen was starting against Hellickson, who will face Jarred Cosart in place of Chen on Monday.

Hellickson's value rebounded significantly this season after struggling in Arizona and Tampa Bay the last few seasons. After dealing with a shoulder injury, Hellickson pitched to ERAs above 4.50 in each season from 2013-15, leading to the Diamondbacks trading him to the Phillies for limited value. 

However, in 20 starts, Hellickson, who will be a free agent after the year, has anchored the Phillies' rotation, bringing a 3.84 ERA over 119 ⅔ innings into Monday's scheduled start. He also has a nearly career-best strikeout rate and has regained his signature command that made him a strong performer with the Rays.

The Phillies are aided this trade deadline by a lack of starting pitching options available on the market. With many teams in contention looking for an additional starter, Hellickson is an attractive piece who could help a team in a pennant race.

Best of MLB: Padres score 4 off Papelbon in 9th, take series from Nationals

Best of MLB: Padres score 4 off Papelbon in 9th, take series from Nationals

WASHINGTON -- The San Diego Padres' three-city road trip didn't begin well. Earning their first series victory against the Washington Nationals since 2011 is helping to turn it around.

Alex Dickerson and Ryan Schimpf hit back-to-back homers off Shawn Kelley in the eighth inning and the Padres added four runs off Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth to beat the Nationals 10-6 on Sunday.

"We've been on the road for a little bit, and it's definitely good to come here against a team like this and get two wins out of it," said Schimpf, whose team suffered a four-game sweep in St. Louis before winning two of three in Washington.

Ryan Buchter (2-0) pitched a scoreless eighth to earn the victory.

With the game tied at 6, Wil Myers drew a one-out walk off Papelbon and moved to second on a wild pitch before Yangervis Solarte's RBI single. The Padres added two more singles to load the bases, setting up Alexei Ramirez's three-run double (see full recap).

Matz earns 1st win since May as Mets beat Marlins
MIAMI -- Helped by a couple of small victories against Giancarlo Stanton, Steven Matz earned a big win for the New York Mets.

Matz pitched six innings Sunday for his first win since May, twice escaping trouble by getting Stanton to ground out with a runner in scoring position, and the Mets took the rubber game of their series against Miami, 3-0.

"It was good to go out there and put up zeroes and get a win," Matz said.

The Mets won two of three games in the series and returned home trailing second-place Miami by half a game in the NL East.

"This was crunch time for us," manager Terry Collins said. "We couldn't lose any more ground. This was a good series for us to win."

Matz (8-6) allowed four hits, walked two and struck out six. Pitching despite a bone spur in his elbow, he had been 0-5 in his past nine starts with an ERA of 4.73 (see full recap).

Reimold's HR helps Orioles beat Indians 5-3 for 3-game sweep
BALTIMORE -- This is how good things are going for the Orioles at home this season: After blowing a late-inning lead, Baltimore launched the game-winning uprising with a third strike.

Pinch-hitter Nolan Reimold hit a decisive two-out homer in the ninth inning after Pedro Alvarez reached on a strikeout, and the Orioles beat the Cleveland Indians 5-3 Sunday for a three-game sweep.

Cody Allen (2-4) began the ninth by striking out Alvarez, but the ball eluded catcher Roberto Perez. After fielding the bouncing ball off the backstop, Perez hit Alvarez in the helmet with the throw for an error.

"As long as I have been playing baseball the rule is you run down the baseline," Alvarez said. "I saw the ball get away from him and I just ran down to first base."

A sacrifice bunt and a strikeout followed before Reimold lined a 2-0 pitch into the left-field seats (see full recap).

DeShields homers as Rangers top Royals
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Delino DeShields is known for his speed, stealing 101 bases in 2012 in the minors, not for his power.

DeShields homered in the seventh inning to break a tie and the Texas Rangers defeated the Kansas City Royals 2-1 on Sunday.

DeShields, who was recalled Thursday from Triple-A Round Rock, walked and doubled before leading off the seventh with his third home run. DeShields hit a 2-1 pitch from Luke Hochevar out to left.

"It so happened that today I was the guy that got us the go-ahead run," DeShields said. "I was just trying to hit the ball hard. I wasn't looking for anything specific. I wanted to get on base. Before I had gotten on base in every at-bat.

"With the game tied and if I get myself in scoring position, there's a good chance for me to touch home plate. I got into it pretty good and got it over the fence, but the main focus was just putting the barrel on the ball and try to get on base."

The loss dropped the Royals to 48-49, the first time the World Series champions have been below .500 since May 15 when they were 18-19. The Royals have lost 13 of 19 games in July (see full recap).