Posted by Kevin Durso
The way the Phillies won their games against the Reds in 2010 must have left the Reds shell-shocked. Because since three straight extra-inning walk-off wins helped the Phillies sweep the Reds in July of last season, the Phillies have had the Reds’ number. It included a Postseason sweep in the NLDS last season. It included a near sweep of the Reds this June, with the only loss coming in the ninth inning, in a rare hiccup by the bullpen. And now, it also includes a four-game sweep of the Reds in Cincinnati.
As with many of their wins this season, the Phillies are finding a way to get a head start by taking advantage of early opportunities. That trend continued today, as the Phillies jumped on the board in the second. It started with an RBI single by Brian Schneider. Even Vance Worley got in the fun, driving home one run on a single. Schneider tried to score on the same play, but was thrown out at the plate. That didn’t seem to matter to Shane Victorino, who followed with a clutch two-out single, adding another run to the Phillies total, and capping a three-run second inning for the Phils.
The Reds had spent the previous two nights wondering what they had to do to get on the scoreboard. In the third, the Phillies shutout streak came to a close, but minimally. Brandon Phillips led off the third with a double, but a nice diving stop by Wilson Valdez got the Phillies an out as Phillips advanced to third. He scored on a sacrifice fly by Joey Votto.
From the second inning on, the Phillies seemed to be clinging to that three-run innings. Until Mr. September showed up. Ryan Howard’s best month at the plate is September. He entered September 1st, 2011 with a career .302 average and 56 home runs. In the sixth, he made it 57, belting a screamer to center that just cleared the fence for a solo shot, his 30th of the season. That marked the sixth straight season Howard has posted 30 or more home runs and 100 or more RBIs.
The Phillies didn't stop there. With a leadoff single by Valdez appearing to go by the wayside, Michael Martinez added his mark to this one, belting a two-run shot to right.
Things took a different turn in the seventh. With Worley cruising, the Reds finally found something. A leadoff double by Drew Stubbs and a single by Ryan Hanigan set up a scoring chance. That's when Chris Heisey belted a three-run shot to right, cutting the lead to two. That ended Worley's day. He finished going six-plus innings, allowing four runs on eight hits. He also walked one and struck out seven.
That was still plenty good enough for his 10th win of the season, thanks to the bullpen. Brad Lidge entered for two batters in the seventh.He struck out one and walked the other. Antonio Bastardo came on and promptly got Joeu Votto to ground into an inning-ending double play.
Bastardo added a scoreless eighth, and Ryan Madson pitched a scoreless ninth for the save, giving the Phillies a 6-4 win and completing a sweep of the Reds.
At the beginning of the season, I made predictions on every player I thought would have something to do with the Phillies. So, while Domonic Brown didn’t take on the role I thought, or Ben Francisco didn’t turn out to be the starting right fielder we thought he would be, most of them were right on the money. But, you can’t predict injuries or trades. So, no Joe Blanton for half the year – actually what I expected, but I thought he’d be traded, not hurt. Kyle Kendrick as the long man – again, partially expected, but I gave him the fifth starter spot. And out of nowhere came the Vanimal – Vance Worley. My prediction for Worley this season was simple – a 2-0 record, a modest 3.76 ERA, 46 strikeouts, and mostly relief appearances. I did mention that his spot starts last season improved his rank in the Phils’ system, and that he could have an impact. But, who’d have believed Worley would be approaching win totals and an ERA among the likes of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels?
That’s what Worley did today, joining the Big Three in double-digits wins, as he continued to make a strong case for being the fourth starter in the Postseason. That’s something to definitely look at now. The Phillies have won 13 straights starts by Worley, and that’s no accident. Worley’s 10-1 record and 2.85 ERA may not win him Rookie of the Year, but it certainly gets him recognized. He’s simply turning into one of the guys, an ace of the future perhaps.
With pitching like this, you can’t even fault the offense for having a huge outburst in the early innings, then doing nothing the rest of the game. When three runs or less will suffice, you take it, because a win is a win is a win. All these wins keep doing is bringing the Phillies closer to their fifth straight division title. With the Phillies facing the lowly Marlins over the weekend, then following with the rival Braves, who have started to come back to Earth after their hot stretch, another division celebration could be closer than you think.
The Phillies conclude their week-long road trip with a three-game series with the Marlins.