PHOENIX — Over the years, Ryan Howard made his living swinging a lethal bat. This time on Tuesday night, he used his eye to help the Phillies to victory.
Howard walked with the bases loaded and one out in the ninth inning to cap a two-run rally. That pair in their final at-bats gave the Phillies a 4-3 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks before 19,645 at Chase Field.
The Phillies (34-45) came from a run down to first tie this one. Jimmy Paredes led off with a double against the left field fence. Andres Blanco followed with a single to right to tie the game, and that set the table for Howard’s game-winning RBI in the final inning. Jeanmar Gomez then came on in the bottom of the inning and retired the Diamondbacks (36-44) in order to record his 21st save.
The Phillies caught a break when Arizona right-hander Zack Greinke left the game before the start of the third inning with tightness in his left oblique. Current Phillies were a collective 14 for 92 (.152) lifetime against the Diamondbacks' ace entering Tuesday. He allowed a run in his two frames before exiting.
Lost in the outcome was another strong outing from starter Jerad Eickhoff, who lasted into the sixth inning and gave up only a pair of runs.
Eickhoff fell short of his sixth quality start in succession. Leaving in the sixth inning, Eickhoff clearly kept the Phillies in this one. During one sequence of hitters, he was particularly strong. Jake Lamb led off the fourth with a triple, but Eickhoff then retired Yasmany Tomas, who flied to shallow right field, struck out Welington Castillo and pitcher Randall Delgado grounded to third.
As is custom this season, Eickhoff suffered from lack of run support. His 2.75 runs per game is the third lowest of qualified MLB starters this season.
After banging out a season-high 16 hits Monday night, the Phillies managed only two runs and nine hits in support of Eickhoff. Maikel Franco slammed his 13th homer of the season with two outs in the fifth to give the Phillies a 2-1 lead but home runs from Tomas in the sixth and Jake Lamb in the seventh quickly put the Phillies down, 3-2.
With the Phillies’ 8-0 victory in the opener of this series in the desert, Phillies pitching now has nine shutouts on the season. That nine is two more than the staff managed all of last season, and this was accomplished in their 78th game this season.
The nine shutouts are the most for the Phillies' staff in five years at this mark of the season. During the 2011 campaign, the combination of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt tossed 21 shutouts and the staff compiled a 3.02 ERA. Also in 2011, the Phillies set a franchise record with a 102 wins.
“I think this is a testament to the kind of arms we have,” reliever David Hernandez said before Tuesday's game. “These guys reached a level of consistency, and that’s what you want from each player. Consistency is the key element to any winning team.”
Aside from the mental game, pitchers are delivering results with precision. After dropping their first four games of the season, the Phillies reeled off five wins in their next six contests, which included three shutouts.
“Since that start, the pitching has been fantastic,” manager Peter Mackanin. “I think the biggest reason for their overall success is each guy is making their pitches. When they’re good, they are good. It’s about consistency.”
Closer in the making?
Lost in the Phillies' blowout victory in the series’ opener was work of the bullpen. After starter Vince Velasquez gathered all the accolades for his performance coming off the disabled list, the bullpen combination of Edubray Ramos, Hector Neris and Severino Gonzalez shut down the Diamondbacks on two hits over the final four innings.
Ramos was particularly effective and retired six hitters without a hit. After walking Michael Bourn to open the sixth, the fleet Arizona centerfielder was gunned down at second trying to steal. From there, Ramos struck out four of the final five hitters he faced. In three appearances since his recall from Triple A Lehigh Valley last Friday, Ramos has allowed no hits and no runs over 3 1/3 innings.
“I’m not saying this is where [Ramos] could wind up, but he has the stuff and demeanor to be a closer,” Mackanin said. “He has a great fastball and his curve and slide have good bites. I’m excited by what I see.”
On Tuesday, rosters for the Futures Game were announced. In a game which showcases top prospects in San Diego July 10, the Phillies have two players in this contest.
Named to Team USA was left-handed outfielder Dylan Cozens out of Scottsdale, Arizona. At 6-5 and 235 pounds, Cozens was a second-round pick in the 2012 draft. In 75 games at Double A Reading, Cozens is hitting .273 with 20 home runs and 60 RBIs.
“We were in Port Charlotte for a game this spring and needed an outfielder,” Mackanin said. “I heard about Cozens, so we brought him along on the trip. In batting practice, he must have hit 10 out of the park, and that got my attention. I think he had one at-bat in that game, but I’ve followed him this season.”
Also named to represent the World Team was Ricardo Pinto, a right-hander from San Joaquin, Venezuela. Last season, Pinto was named the Paul Owens Award winner as the best pitcher in the Phillies' farm system. Currently at Reading, the 6-0, 165-pounder is 3-3 in 15 games as a starter with a 4.32 ERA.
With warmer weather …
The Phillies have played 79 games and Cameron Rupp has appeared in 48 of them.
The playing guideline for catchers during the course of the season is typically around 135 to 145 games, and Rupp is on target to catch over 100 games. Hitting .270, Rupp leads the Phillies in doubles (14), while 22 of his 48 hits have gone for extra bases.
So far this season, Rupp’s workload was predicated on Mackanin’s desire to get a good luck at his defensive skills and how Rupp handles the pitching staff. Now with that transition complete and the grueling days of summer now upon us, Mackanin wants to change personnel.
Beginning with Tuesday’s game, Carlos Ruiz will get more playing time.
“The weather is getting hotter and I know Cam is a big guy,” Mackanin said. “Plus, Chooch still has a great deal to offer.”
Going forward, Ruiz will catch more games and give the developing pitching staff a comfort zone of experience and knowledge.
The Phillies go for the sweep Wednesday at 3:40 p.m. when right-hander Zach Eflin (0-2, 6.28 ERA) opposes Diamondbacks righty Archie Bradley (3-3, 4.50 ERA).