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.”

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."