Halladay, Phils earn rain-shortened win over Cards

slideshow-041913-phillies-halladay-ap.jpg

Halladay, Phils earn rain-shortened win over Cards

BOX SCORE

It’s amazing what a few runs can do for a pitcher.

Just ask Roy Halladay.

He rode a five-run cushion in the first inning to his second straight win Friday night. The 35-year-old right-hander went seven strong innings and came away with his 67th career complete game in the Phillies’ rain-shortened 8-2 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals at Citizens Bank Park.

“It’s a big difference pitching with a nice lead,” Halladay said. “Get five early runs, give one back and you get three more. It doesn’t happen very often, but it makes it a lot better because you can be aggressive and you are less tentative and tight. You can be aggressive and attack guys.”

Halladay was dead-on when he said early runs don’t happen very often -- at least with this team. Entering Friday night’s game, the Phils had scored just 13 runs in their previous seven games. None of those 13 runs were scored before the sixth inning.

Halladay’s effort Friday night evened his season record at 2-2 and snapped a four-game losing streak for the Phillies.

The Phillies’ offense snapped another troubling streak when it drew a walk for the first time since Sunday. The Phils actually had two walks in the game as they avoided becoming the first team since 1920 to go five straight games without a walk.

“We finally got a walk,” manager Charlie Manuel said with wide eyes after the game.

Manuel was in a good mood because, well, he’s always in a good mood when his team hits.

The Phils had 10 hits, four for extra bases. They chased lefty Jaime Garcia (eight runs, four earned, in three innings) early, a mild shocker considering they entered the game hitting just .131 (11 for 84) against lefties. Ryan Howard, who has struggled against left-handed pitching, got the night off. Manuel said Howard had a sore groin.

Ty Wigginton spent last season with the Phillies and made eight errors in 22 games at third base. Wigginton made another error at third in this game, but he did it for the Cardinals and it set up four of the five runs that the Phils scored in the first inning. Ben Revere (RBI triple) and Humberto Quintero (RBI double) followed the error with big hits.

The attendance was just 34,092, small by Phillies’ standards of recent seasons, but the crowd came alive with the early burst of runs.

“When we put together runs, that’ll bring life to your team,” Manuel said. “We got a break (the Wigginton error) and ran with it.”

Halladay was the story of the spring because of his consistent struggles on the mound. Whispers of a serious decline followed him into the regular season and grew louder when he was tagged for 12 hits and 12 runs over 7 1/3 innings in his first two starts.

Sunday in Miami, Halladay showed a major improvement when he pitched eight innings of one-run ball against the Miami Marlins. That was not a top test for Halladay -- even he acknowledged it -- because the Marlins, averaging just over two runs per game, are a threadbare team and they were without their best player, Giancarlo Stanton. The Cardinals, averaging over five runs per game, were a better test.

Though Halladay fell behind in a lot of counts -- he threw first-pitch strikes to just 11 of 25 hitters -- and had a poor ratio of strikes to balls (59/50), he had excellent results against the Cards. He allowed just two hits, solo homers by Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday, walked two and struck out six.

Working with a lead, catcher Quintero called a lot of sinkers. It was a good pitch for Halladay and it sat around 90 mph and hit 92 several times.

Over the winter, Halladay made mechanical changes to his delivery.

“Tonight was about as good as I’ve felt,” he said. “I still need to be more consistent, but I feel good where I’m at. I feel like it’s coming together the way it should. I’ll continue to work at it until I get more consistent.”

Halladay mentioned that his delivery got out of whack a few times, especially when he tried to “add” to pitches. That was a reference to overthrowing. He seemed to do that in his first couple of starts as he tried to generate velocity. He said he needs to avoid that temptation and believes he can now recognize it when he’s doing that and make a quick fix to his delivery.

“Obviously it was a struggle for me in spring training and the first two starts of the season,” he said. “I know it’s hard for you guys to believe but I always felt I was going in the right direction. I just needed time to put it together.”

As Halladay kept the Cardinals off balance Friday night, a more important drama played in Massachusetts, where law enforcement officials nabbed one of the lowlifes who killed and maimed innocent people with a bombing at the Boston Marathon. Halladay is known for his tunnel vision, but even he knew what was going down 300 or so miles to the north.

“We all realize how lucky we are to live in this country and have the freedoms we do,” Halladay said. “That (incident) was disappointing and heartbreaking. But to see how we overcome things is gratifying. We always become stronger after things like that. I’m glad to be part of a country like that.”

Best of MLB: Daniel Murphy homers twice to help Nationals sweep Mets

Best of MLB: Daniel Murphy homers twice to help Nationals sweep Mets

WASHINGTON -- Daniel Murphy homered twice, tormenting his former team yet again, and the Washington Nationals completed a three-game sweep of the New York Mets with 4-2 victory Wednesday night.

Max Scherzer (9-5) cruised against New York's sputtering offense, allowing two hits with 10 strikeouts over 7 1/3 innings. He retired 18 in a row before Brandon Nimmo's single in the eighth and finished with at least 10 strikeouts for the fourth straight game.

Murphy homered off Logan Verrett (3-5) in the second for a 1-0 lead and golfed a two-run drive in the eighth. He matched his career high with 14 homers and helped Washington win its fourth in a row.

The Mets went 23 innings without scoring before James Loney's two-run homer in the ninth off Shawn Kelley (see full recap).

Yankees score 6 runs in 9th inning to stun Rangers
NEW YORK -- Brian McCann hit a tying, three-run homer off Sam Dyson, Didi Gregorius capped a six-run ninth inning with his two-run shot and the New York Yankees woke up late to beat the Texas Rangers 9-7 Wednesday night.

Down 7-2 and in danger of falling 10 games behind AL East-leading Baltimore, the Yankees began their comeback when McCann homered off Cesar Ramos in the eighth.

Rob Refsnyder singled off Matt Bush leading off the ninth, Jacoby Ellsbury singled and Dyson (1-2) relieved.

Brett Gardner singled and Refsnyder came home when center fielder Ian Desmond bobbled the ball for an error. After Alex Rodriguez lined out, McCann homered into the right-field bleachers, Starlin Castro walked and Gregorius lined the ball into the right-field seats for his first career game-ending homer.

Luis Cessa (1-0) allowed one run in three innings for his first big league win (see full recap).

Indians blank Braves to extend winning streak to 12
ATLANTA -- Danny Salazar threw seven innings, Lonnie Chisenhall hit his second homer of the series and the Cleveland Indians stretched their winning streak to 12 games by beating the Atlanta Braves 3-0 on Wednesday night.

Cleveland swept its fourth straight series to extend the majors' longest winning streak this season. The Indians began the day leading second-place Kansas City by six games in the AL Central.

The Indians need one more win to match the longest winning streaks in franchise history. They won 13 straight in 1942 and 1951. They had another 12-game streak in 1922.

Jason Kipnis broke a scoreless tie with a two-run single in the fifth.

Salazar (10-3) was dominant, allowing five hits with no walks and eight strikeouts. He lowered the AL's second-best ERA to 2.22 while winning his sixth straight start (see full recap).

Phillies finish off road trip with win in 10 innings to sweep Diamondbacks

Phillies finish off road trip with win in 10 innings to sweep Diamondbacks

BOX SCORE

PHOENIX – One element of a successful team is finding different ways to win.

That appears to be an important dimension the Phillies captured this week in the desert. After taking the opening two games of a series with the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Phillies found another way to claim victory.

The come-from-behind method appears to be working just fine these days, and that element of their game surfaced again Wednesday afternoon. Down 4-2 early, the Phillies rallied for single runs in the fifth and seventh. Then they put up a crooked number in the eighth inning (four runs) before tacking on one more at the finish. The end result was a satisfying 9-8 win in 10 innings over the Diamondbacks before 18,603 in Chase Field (see Instant Replay).

The win completed a three-game sweep in the desert, and that came after the Arizona swept the Phillies June 17-20 at Citizens Bank Park. The three consecutive victories are the Phils' most since they won three straight from May 12-14 as they finished their nine-game road trip with a 5-4 mark.

While the sweep itself was not terribly significant, offered manager Pete Mackanin, the way the Phillies completed the road trip is important. Through the three-city trip of Minneapolis-St. Paul, San Francisco and Phoenix, the bats game alive and Vince Velesquez, came of the disabled list with a stellar effort Monday.

Now, the goal is the keep the momentum gained from the sweep and build on recent achievements.

“The key over the past week is guys having good at-bats,” said Peter Bourjos, who is hitting .471 in his last 17 games. “At this point, we’re not changing anything, and if we continue to do what we accomplished over the past week, we’ll be fine.”

If Velasquez’s effort electrified the pitching staff, then Bourjos' tear has rejuvenated the offense. That .471 average (24 for 51) over the last 17 games leads the majors. Bourjos also has a nine-game hitting streak over that span after going 2 for 5 with a homer, two RBIs and two runs scored on Wednesday.

If the Phillies proved anything during the sweep of the Diamondbacks, it's that this is a resilient group. Hitting, like good pitching, is contagious and after banging out a season-high 16 hits Tuesday night, the Phillies increased that production by one on Wednesday.

Though not around for nearly half this game, starter Zach Eflin gave the Phillies a strong effort. After giving up a three-run, first-inning homer to Jake Lamb and another run in the second, Eflin settled down and pitched effectively. From the time Arizona scored on a Jean Segura sacrifice fly in the second, Eflin retired 14 of the next 16 hitters he faced.

“I started to pitch inside and wanted to keep them guessing,” Eflin said. “It was important for me to keep them off-balance and not get set. It’s about being aggressive and keeping them off-balance.”

Similar to Jerad Eickhoff, Eflin has been a victim of little run support. When he left after six innings, the Phillies were behind 4-2. Through his initial three starts in the majors, Eflin received only two total runs of support in 14 1/3 innings. That equates to 1.26 runs per nine innings.

However, the Phillies eventually found their offense in the win. With single runs in the fifth and seventh, and that four-spot in the eight, they managed to forge an 8-7 lead. 

The Phillies appeared to have this one locked down before Andres Blanco thought about going home on a roller to third base with two outs in the eighth inning before ultimately making an errant throw to first for the team's second error of the day.

The Phillies were able to go back on top in the 10th when Bourjos singled with one out and moved to second on single from Cody Asche. Hitting for winning pitcher Jeanmar Gomez, Tyler Goeddel lifted a fly to right and that brought in Bourjos with the game-winning run. 

Lefty Brett Oberholtzer retired the Diamondbacks in the 10th and recorded his first major-league save.

Instant Replay: Phillies 9, Diamondbacks 8 (10 innings)

Instant Replay: Phillies 9, Diamondbacks 8 (10 innings)

BOX SCORE

PHOENIX — The Phillies' bats started hot, cooled and, late in this one, worked their come-from-behind magic. For the second game in succession, a defeat appeared imminent, but a kind of resiliency reserved for winning clubs showed once again.

Down by three going into the eighth, the Phillies rallied for four runs in that inning and eventually squeezed out a 9-8, 10-inning victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks before a Wednesday matinee crowd of 18,603 at Chase Field. The win kept the Phillies' extra-inning record perfect at 5-0.

The win completed a three-game sweep of Arizona in the desert and acted as revenge after the Diamondbacks (36-45) swept the Phillies (35-45) in four games at Citizens Bank Park earlier this month.

Pinch-hitter Tyler Goeddel lifted a sacrifice fly in the 10th that scored Peter Bourjos with the game-winner. With one out against Arizona reliever Silvino Bracho, Bourjos singled and moved to third on a single from Cody Asche. Goeddel, hitting for winning pitcher Jeanmar Gomez, delivered the clincher. Lefty Brett Oberholtzer then retired the Diamondbacks in the 10th and recorded his first major-league save.

After going ahead by one in the eighth, the Phillies lost that advantage in the bottom half of the inning. That’s because Jean Segura drove in the tying run with a two-out, infield single.

After the Phillies deadlocked the game at 4-4 with single runs in the fifth and seventh, relievers Severino Gonzalez and Edubray Ramos gave up a three-spot to the Diamondbacks in the bottom of the seventh. The frame was highlighted by a two-run double from Paul Goldschmidt.

Quickly, the Phillies responded. A bases-loaded single from Andres Blanco and an error by third baseman Jake Lamb on a grounder from Obudel Herrera tied the contest. From there, Cody Asche knocked in his third run of the game on a sacrifice fly and the Phillies ultimately escaped with another comeback effort.

Starting pitching
This was a rough beginning for starter Zach Eflin, but a strong finish.

After Bourjos’ two-run homer staked the right-hander to an early lead in the first inning, Eflin gave it right back. After a double from West Chester, Pennsylvania, native Phil Gosselin and a throwing error by Maikel Franco, Lamb followed with a towering, three-run homer to dead center field.

Then, a second-inning sacrifice fly from Segura and Eflin was quickly behind by a pair after two innings. From that run in the second, Eflin settled down and retired 14 of the final 16 hitters he faced.

Trailing 4-3 at the time of his departure, Eflin allowed six hits, four runs (three earned), walked none and fanned three hitters. He threw 91 pitches, 60 for strikes.

The offense
Bourjos continued his hot bat.

Coming into Wednesday’s game, the fleet outfielder was hitting .476 (22 for 46) in contests since June 12. Quickly, he turned on a 2-1 fastball from Arizona starter Archie Bradley after Herrera walked to open the game and drove the ball into the left field bleachers for his third of the season. He finished 2 for 5 on the day.

For the game, the Phillies accumulated 17 hits and Asche led the attack with a single, double and three RBIs. The hit total for the Phillies set a season high.

With the bat, Eflin snapped a personal 0-for-5 streak and led off the fifth with a double to center field. That represented his first major-league hit. He later scored on a double from Asche that brought the Phillies within a run at 4-3.

Work in progress
If there is one consensus within the Phillies' organization, it is the great potential of Franco.

While Franco’s power remains without question and his ability to drive the ball to the gap is understood, the issue now is how to harness his untapped ability into production.

As the season progresses, Franco appears as a dichotomy with divergent results. His road numbers far exceed what Franco has been able to accomplish at Citizens Bank Park.

“You have to understand this is his first full season in the majors,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “He has the opportunity to be a very good hitter and he’s still learning.”

Franco, who hit cleanup in Wednesday’s finale, leads the Phillies in home runs, RBIs, extra-base hits and slugging percentage. Yet, the difference between road and home numbers continue to baffle.

In his last 10 road games prior to Wednesday, Franco hit .378 and reached base safely in each contest. As impressive as his numbers is his undisciplined structure.

A prime example transpired during Tuesday’s come-from-behind win over the Diamondbacks. In the ninth inning with the bases loaded and score tied, Franco managed to get ahead in the count against closer Brad Ziegler. Then working to a full count, Ziegler’s pay-off pitch was way out of the strike zone, down and away. Franco took a wild swing and missed the pitch by a wide margin.

“[Franco] has a tendency to be overaggressive,” Mackanin said. “He needs to be a more disciplined hitter, and when that happens, he will be very productive.”

Playing the hometown team
Sitting over in the Arizona dugout, Gosselin remembers those games at Citizens Bank Park.

With his home in West Chester and graduating from Malvern Prep, Gosselin grew up watching the glory years in the late 2000s powered by Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and other franchise icons. Selected by the Braves as a third baseman in the fifth round of the 2010 draft, Gosselin was eventually promoted to the major leagues in time to play in Citizens Bank Park during the final week of the 2013 season.

“It was surreal,” he said in the Diamondbacks’ clubhouse before Wednesday’s game. “I grew up with this team and then to play in a place I saw so many games was really amazing.”

On the Diamondbacks’ most recent road trip, which included a sweep at Citizens Bank Park, Gosselin had an opportunity to hang out with family and friends. Of course, the ticket demand was excessive and the 27-year-old was able to accommodate the request.

For now, Gosselin has settled in as an important member of the Diamondbacks’ bench. Coming into play Wednesday, his was 10 for 34 as a pinch-hitter. That tops the majors in both at-bats and hits. That’s a .294 average as a pinch-hitter and includes a double and three RBIs.

Up next
The Phillies now come off their 5-4 road trip with a six-game homestand. First in are the Kansas City Royals while the Atlanta Braves follow for three.

Matchups for the Royals series beginning at 7:05 Friday night have Jeremy Hellickson (5-6, 4.23 ERA) taking on Ian Kennedy (6-6, 3.96). For Saturday at 5:50 p.m., it's Aaron Nola (5-7, 4.45) against Danny Duffy (3-1, 3.24). In the finale Sunday afternoon at 1:35 p.m., it’s Vince Velasquez (6-2, 3.38) opposing Yordano Ventura (6-5, 5.00).