As soon as the umpires halted the game and called the players off the field for the two-hour, 17-minute rain delay on Thursday night at the Bank, David Herndon had a pretty good idea he was going to pitch. After all, Herndons forte during his year-plus with the Phillies has been to weather the storm for the club.
A Rule 5 acquisition last season, Herndon has inherited the long-man role in the bullpen in 2011. In the 4-1 victory over the Diamondbacks at the rain-drenched Bank, Herndons effort was just what manager Charlie Manuel needed.
Thanks to starter Vance Worley and Herndon pulling off the double-team, the Phillies took two out of three from the Diamondbacks to win their 14th series out of the last 16.
At 80-42, the Phillies remained 8 games up on the Atlanta Braves in the NL East. With the victory over the Diamondbacks coupled with the Braves 1-0 victory over the Giants, the teams magic number is 31.
The Phillies are 38 games over .500 for the first time since 1977 when the club finished the season with a franchise-record 101 wins. The Phils won their 80th game in the 122nd game, which is the fastest to 80 since 1976 when they did it in 121 games.
Herndon picked up his first win of the season and the second of his big league career by holding off the D-backs for three innings after the long rain delay. Essentially, Herndon finished what starter Worley began, giving up just one hit and notching four whiffs during his stint.
Worley gave up a hit in three innings before the rain came and washed out his bounce-back effort following a five-run first inning during his last start in Los Angeles. About 25 minutes into the rain delay, Worley played a little catch and then pitching coach Rich Dubee told him to close it down.
Enter Herndon, who has put together a nice second half to the season after getting cuffed around a bit in the early going. Though he doesnt get the call from the pen all that much, Herndon has made the most of the appearances he has received.
He hasnt allowed a run since July 18 and has an 0.73 ERA in 12 13 innings with 11 strikeouts since the all-star break. More telling, Herndon has a 1.65 ERA since returning from the minors in mid-May. He also appears to have a slider and a changeup to go with a hard fastball.
Where that changeup came from, though, is anyones guess.
To be honest with you, I dont ever work on it, Herndon said. I dont really throw it during side sessions at all.
Nevertheless, the turning point for Herndon came when he stopped trying to overpower hitters with his fastball and instead simply decided to throw downhill. It was not so much as velocity and stuff that Herndon was looking for as much as it was locating his pitching. If he threw 90 or 92-mph instead of 95, it was OK with him.
He had good command with his slider and changeup, Manuel said. He kept the ball down, especially when hes ahead in the count.
Meanwhile, with Herndon holding the fort in relief of Worley, John Mayberry, Raul Ibanez and Wilson Valdez drove home all of the teams runs. The first one came in the second inning when Valdez doubled home Raul Ibanez after a one-out double. Then, an inning before the rain paused the game, Mayberry clubbed a two-run homer off the foul pole in left field.
Ibanez wrapped up the scoring with another two-out double in the fifth to plate Chase Utley.
For Ibanez, the two doubles equal a third of the hits he had during August heading into Thursday nights game. But whether this signifies another slump busted for the 39-year old outfielder is yet to be determined. A streaky player throughout his career, Ibanez has taken his hot and cold periods to an extreme this season.
With some talk before the game that Manuel could begin to use Mayberry in left field against lefty pitchers, Ibanez snapped a 2-for-29 skid with that double in the second inning. However, with 17 RBIs in his last 21 appearances, Manuel has no plans to take the starting job away from Ibanez any time soon.
I think hes in a little slump here recently, but at the same time, for two or three games that really doesnt wager into him playing every day or not, Manuel said. Ibanez is going to play a lot in left field, this is not a platoon system. That doesnt mean Mayberry cant play some in center or right or some at first.
After the game the Phillies took the Amtrak to Washington, DC for a three-game series against the Nationals. Roy Oswalt (5-7, 3.84) is slated to pitch against Livan Hernandez (7-11, 4.21) in Friday nights opener. Kyle Kendrick (7-5, 3.25) rejoins the rotation in place of Cole Hamels for a start to take on lefty John Lannan (8-8, 3.55) while Roy Halladay (15-5, 2.53) faces Chien-Ming Wang (2-2, 4.22) in Sunday afternoons finale.
E-mail John R. Finger at email@example.com.