Streaking Phillies top Brewers to open road trip

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Streaking Phillies top Brewers to open road trip

BOX SCORE

MILWAUKEE -- It turns out the old sparkplug still has a little juice.

Leading off for the first time since 2004, Michael Young went 3 for 5 and conspired with John Mayberry to produce six hits from the top two spots in the lineup. Tyler Cloyd did the rest for yet another quality start, and the Phillies opened a 10-game road trip with a 5-1 win in Milwaukee on Thursday (see Instant Replay).

The Phils (31-30) won for the fifth straight game and climbed over .500 for the first time this season.

Mayberry also went 3 for 5, Delmon Young homered and Cloyd worked into the seventh without surrendering a run, all helping the Phillies claim a relatively comfortable win.

"We're happy the hard work has started to pay off and we're starting to see it in the standings," Michael Young said. "I think we're very happy with our style of play right now. We're doing a good job on the bases, running aggressively, pushing the envelope. The bases is one of those places where you can create some energy for your team, and we're doing a good job of that right now."

A pair of infield singles ignited a first-inning rally that gave Cloyd some early support. The Phillies ultimately loaded the bases with no outs, then scored on Ryan Howard's laser-beam sacrifice fly to center and a wild pitch from Brewers starter Wily Peralta (4-7), who labored through five innings of work.

"We caught a couple breaks with two infield hits, and Jimmy got a clean one," Young said, referring to the Jimmy Rollins' single to load the bases. "Their guy has great stuff and has a real bright future, but Tyler did really well. He limited the damage. Their big guys in the middle managed a couple singles, and that was about it."

Cloyd allowed four hits -- all singles -- in 6 2/3 innings of work. He worked around five walks and has allowed two runs or fewer in four of his five starts since subbing in for Roy Halladay. He was saddled with a hard-luck loss in his last start Saturday, also against the Brewers.

"We mixed up a lot, threw a lot of different sequences, different pitches to hitters," Cloyd said of facing the same team twice in a week. "I made little adjustments mechanics-wise, which has helped me keep the ball down. Obviously when the ball is down, you get a little more movement on pitches. The offspeed has been down in the zone and that's the biggest thing."

The Phillies weren't satisfied with the 2-0 lead after one, scoring in the second when Cloyd drew a walk and motored around from first base on Mayberry's RBI double. In the third, speed again played a role when Domonic Brown stole both second and third base, then came across when Erik Kratz beat the ball to first to avoid a double play. Brown, who registered his team-leading 20th multi-hit game, now has six stolen bases for the year after stealing five in his career heading into 2013.

"We're not going to steal a lot of pitches when pitchers are really quick to the plate and catchers throw good," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "We don't have a legit base-stealer where he can go when a pitcher's release is about 1.2 or 1.25 [seconds], definitely 1.3. When you start getting up into the 1.4s and [1.]5s and [1.]6s, they have a good chance of making it."

Delmon Young added his third home run in seven games in the fifth to afford the Phillies a 5-0 lead. Milwaukee's lone run came across against reliever Mike Adams in the eighth on an RBI groundout by Jonathan Lucroy.

Two of Michael Young's hits were of the infield variety, including one to lead off the game.

"[Manuel] asked me about it when I got here," Young said of batting leadoff. "He asked if I'd done it before, I said, 'Yeah.' It doesn't really matter to me. My approach is always dictated on the situation in the game.

"I know what I'm capable of — I just have to try and stay the course. I had a little bit of a rough stretch there, but I just have to keep at it and stay the course."

The Brewers, who have been beleaguered by ineffectiveness and injuries within their rotation, plan to start Alfredo Figaro and Tom Gorzelanny over the next two days. Both have spent the majority of the year in the bullpen and may not have a typical starter's pitch count to work with, meaning the Phillies could benefit from forcing the Brewers to take a full four innings of relief work Thursday.

"We've still got to come out and outplay them," Manuel said. "Sometimes in this game when things don't look so bright for you, something always happens. That's why you go play. You don't take anything for granted."

Phillies prospect J.P. Crawford learning to fight through failure

Phillies prospect J.P. Crawford learning to fight through failure

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Plastered on a wall outside the press box in Coca-Cola Park is a sign — "Pigs to the Bigs" — surrounded by dozens of stars.

Each has upon it the name of a player who has made the leap from the Triple A Lehigh Valley IronPigs to the parent Phillies since Lehigh Valley began operations in 2008 — everyone from outfielder Chris Snelling (April 30, 2008) to pitcher Nick Pivetta (April 29, 2017), the latter of whom has since returned to the IronPigs.

It is a study in the star-crossed, of guys who bounced up and down (Pete Orr, July 8, 2011), guys who flamed out (Domonic Brown, July 28, 2010), guys whose fate is yet to be determined (Maikel Franco, Sept. 3, 2014).

The point being that the path to major-league stardom seldom follows a straight line.

That has been demonstrated once again by the Phillies' top prospect, shortstop J.P. Crawford, who spent weeks in bounce-back mode earlier this season.

And now finds himself there again.

His 0-for-4 night in Thursday's 8-4 loss to Indianapolis left him hitless in his last 16 at-bats, his slash line for the season at .175/.291/.221.

Recall that Crawford, the 16th overall pick in the 2013 draft, had exactly four hits in 48 at-bats over his first 14 games of the season, an average of .083.

Never before had the 22-year-old experienced anything like it, and he took a methodical approach to remedying the problem. He did some video work. He tinkered with his stance. He consulted with hitting coach Sal Rende and roving minor-league hitting instructor Andy Tracy. And slowly but surely, he began coming around.

The thinking at that point was that his slump might serve as a valuable lesson, a blessing in disguise.

As Crawford put it hours before Thursday's first pitch, "I'd rather struggle here than if I ever make it to the big leagues, God willing. I'd much rather have it [happen] down here than up there."

Though it will happen there, too. Baseball, everyone always says, is a game of failure. It's just a matter of how each player deals with it, works through it, minimizes it.

Lehigh Valley manager Dusty Wathan has said repeatedly that he was impressed by Crawford's approach to his scuffling start, that he thought the youngster treated it as "a growing opportunity" that can only help him down the line.

It was all Wathan could have hoped for, for Crawford or anybody else.

"I think it's a good thing to be able to have some experience to look back on, later on," he said. "Now, when they're going through it they probably don't think of it that way, but those of us who have been around baseball and been in situations like that personally, too, know that it's going to get better."

Wathan, seated at his office desk in a T-shirt and shorts before Thursday's game, has been around the block. He previously managed Crawford at Double A Reading, and believes those 14 games in April represent a blip.

"We know that J.P.'s a great player," Wathan said. "I think [such struggles] can actually end up being a good thing for these guys."

If Crawford, a native Californian, had few previous failures to draw upon — "He hasn't really had any," Wathan said — he at least had a ready roster of big-time athletes in his family with whom he could commiserate. His dad, Larry, was a CFL defensive back from 1981-89. His cousin, Carl, was a major-league outfielder for 15 years, ending last season. His older sister, Eliza, played softball at Cal State-Fullerton.

Certainly it appears they have kept him grounded, because he is singularly unimpressed by his draft status or ranking with various scouting services.

"I [couldn't] care less about that," he said. "All that doesn't really matter. Once you get on the field, everyone's the same. Everyone's the same player."

Though he was somewhat less than that early on. He was admittedly frustrated, but far from defeated.

"You've got to stay on the positive [side] on everything," he said. "You can't get too down on yourself, or else you're just going to do worse."

Had it been a major-league situation instead of a player-development situation, it is entirely possible that Wathan would have held him out of the lineup a day or two, just to let him clear his head.

"Or maybe not, because he contributes every night, somehow," the manager said.

And as Crawford said, "You're not going to get better sitting. You've got to go out there and play."

He admitted earlier this month that while he had once been reluctant about video study, he found great benefit in it when he was looking for answers in late April.

He decided to raise his hands while at the plate, and the hits began to come. He batted at a .253 clip over 24 games, including a six-game hitting streak, bringing his average to a season-best .196 on May 20.

Now it's back to the drawing board. It is, after all, a game of failure. It's just a matter of dealing with it, working through it, minimizing it.

He has become well-acquainted with the concept.

Howie Kendrick hit by pitch twice, removed from rehab start at Triple A

Howie Kendrick hit by pitch twice, removed from rehab start at Triple A

Howie Kendrick experienced a painful rehab start on Thursday night.

Rehabbing with Triple A Lehigh Valley, Kendrick was hit by a pitch twice before being removed after the sixth inning of the IronPigs' 8-4 loss to Indianapolis at Coca-Cola Park.

Both times Kendrick was plunked in the upper left arm, according to Tom Housenick of the Morning Call.

There was no update on if Kendrick was injured or taken out for precautionary reasons. Thursday marked Kendrick's second rehab start as he recovers from an oblique strain that has sidelined him since April 15.

The Phillies' leftfielder started at third base Thursday. At the beginning of his rehab assignment, Kendrick was expected to play four games and see time at third and first base, as well as in left field.

Kendrick made a throwing error at third on Thursday and finished 0 for 1 with a run scored. In his two games, he's 0 for 3 with two strikeouts.

Kendrick hit .333 with four doubles, a triple and five RBIs in 10 games with the Phillies prior to landing on the DL.

When he returns, he could see time at third base instead of left field if Maikel Franco continues to struggle (see story).