Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Phillies take rubber game from Mets

NEW YORK – Most of the heroes of Wednesday night’s come-from-behind, 10-6 win over the Mets – a close game that turned into a blowout in the ninth – weren’t very surprising.
Despite have the unlucky distinction of not having a win by his record this season, Cliff Lee has pitched as well as he has all season. He held New York to three runs in six innings and has a 3.00 ERA after eight starts.
Despite not starting for the third straight game with a hamstring strain, Carlos Ruiz needed one at-bat to continue to be the Phillies most productive hitter. He stepped in for Lee in the seventh, swatting a two-run, game-tying, pinch-hit home run.

Despite not being on a major league contract in spring training and splitting left field duties for most of the season’s first two months, Juan Pierre leads the team with 17 multi-hit games. His second hit Wednesday night, a single to lead off the eighth, ignited the game-winning rally.
Pierre scored the game-winning run later in the inning, when Shane Victorino lifted a sacrifice fly to shallow center.
But the unsung heroes of the Phillies win Wednesday – their sixth in their last eight games and 12th in their last 18 – were two guys who were apart of the crew being blamed for the team’s sluggish start a month ago. After Lee departed and the offense rallied back, Antonio Bastardo and Jose Contreras stood up and finished off the Mets.
After Ruiz hit the game-tying home run in the eighth, his eighth in 45 games this season, Bastardo and Contreras retired six of the seven batters they faced. In a trip that saw the Phils lose another All-Star to the disabled list, the bullpen’s resurgence helped the team take five out of seven games in St. Louis and New York.
Three weeks ago, on May 10, the Phillies were four games under .500 largely due to a bullpen with an unseemly 5.59 ERA through the season’s first 32 games. Their ERA, opponents’ OPS (.835) and on-base percentage (.366) were all the worst in baseball.
When the Phillies showed up to the ballpark the next day, the ‘pen was given a bit of a facelift as left-handers Jake Diekman and Raul Valdes were summoned up from Triple-A. In the same week, Michael Schwimer, Brian Sanches and Joe Savery were sent down.
In the 18 games since the bullpen shuffle entering Wednesday, Phillies relievers have a 2.86 ERA.
In their last 12 games, including Wednesday, when Raul Valdes had a hiccup on the ninth, the ‘pen has a 2.80 ERA and has held the opposition to a .219 batting average while racking up 41 strikeouts and walking four in 35 1/3 innings.
Contreras and Bastardo have been the poster boys of the pen’s turnaround.
The 40-year-old Contreras allowed 10 runs in his first 10 games this season after being activated off the DL following offseason elbow surgery. Contreras extended his scoreless string to six straight games on Wednesday; he has a 1.86 ERA in 11 games since May 4.
Bastardo had a 5.40 ERA in April and nearly as many walks (four) and strikeouts (five) in his first seven games. Bastardo has a 0.79 ERA with 13 strikeouts and four walks in 11 1/3 innings in 13 games in May. Entering Wednesday, opponents had hit .097 against him with a .194 on-base percentage this month.
After Bastardo and Contreras made Ruiz’s home run and Victorino’s sac fly stand up, it didn’t look like the Phils would need to use their most reliable and dominant reliever. A six-run explosion in the top of the ninth
– keyed by a three-run, second deck-reaching home run from Jimmy Rollins – should have allowed Jonathan Papelbon to take the night off.
But when Valdes struggled to get the last out in the ninth, Papelbon entered and helped send the Phils home with another win.


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