Archive | June, 2013

At the Cross Roads: Can the Phillies Contend in 2013 or Are They Done?

27 Jun

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

If the Phillies are still below .500 by the july 31st trade deadline, will general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. blow the team up and start all over?

If the Phillies are still below .500 by the July 31st trade deadline, will general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. blow the team up and start all over?

PHILADELPHIA—When a team has a string of bad losses, it can either be the springboard for something great or the catalyst that sends the team into the abyss.

Earlier this week, the Phillies had two devastating losses that have fans thinking they may have hit rock bottom.

Let’s face it. When you get your rear-end handed to you in an 8-0 shutout loss to a New York Mets team that’s real close to a Triple ‘’A” club, you know there’s something wrong.

But while that loss was bad, it was nothing compared to Monday’s loss to the San Diego Padres in extra innings.

The Phils carried a 3-0 lead into the ninth inning.  Starting pitcher Cliff Lee had pitched eight shutout innings. But after throwing 109 pitches, Lee allowed hits including a double to the first two men faced.

Manager Charlie Manuel decided he had seen enough and brought in a struggling Jonathan Papelbon into the game to close it out. Papelbon gave up three in the ninth to allow the Padres to tie the game.

In the bottom of the 10th inning, Justin De Fratus retired the first guy he faced, but then walked two and hit another to load the bases. San Diego’s Kyle Blanks, the guy who drove the two runs to put the Padres on the board in the ninth, got the game-winning walk-off RBI single.

It was one of those horrific losses that leave fans and the players themselves saying, “WTF.”

The Phillies are 38-41 and are struggling to get out of the way of themselves. With the July 31st trade deadline a month way, you get the sinking feeling that the Phillies are about as good as they’re going to get.

That’s means (in my Jim Mora voice): Playoffs? You kidding me, Playoffs? The Phillies need to win a game, any game, another game.

If that’s the case, you might be saying good-bye to guys like Lee or perhaps Jimmy Rollins, who has a year left on his current contract, if the Phillies keep floundering where they are right now.

With the way the Phillies are playing right now, there is no reason to think they’re going to get any better. The offense has been erratic, the starting pitching has been inconsistent and the bullpen is just plain awful.

But then again, we’ve seen stranger things happen. (The optimistic portion of this column.)

The Phillies beat San Diego 6-2 the next day and they beat the Padres 7-5 in extra innings. The Phils are a two-game winning streak coming into this weekend’s four-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Could this be the start of the turnaround?

They’ve got enough veterans and decent young players that the offense could suddenly get hot. If somehow Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Rollins and Domonic Brown all got hot at the same time, the Phillies might run off a few wins.

What if Cole Hamels (2-12) somehow found his groove? Could Carlos Zambrano, who is going through an extended-spring training in Florida, be the answer if Roy Halladay doesn’t make it back?

A couple of the young arms in the bullpen might figure this big league thing out and start pitching well enough to hang on to leads in games.  Papelbon will probably recover from his current funk.

Before you go writing them off, just remember back on July 28, 2006 the day the Phillies traded Bobby Abreu to the Yankees. They were 49-56.

Then general manager Pat Gillick said it would be a long time before the Phillies would be contenders and pretty much wrote off 2007.  The Phillies finished the year with a 39-23 and missed the playoffs by three games, but that late run created the foundation for their run of five NL East titles, two National League pennants and a World Series crown.

However you want to look at it, the Phillies are at the crossroads of a season that could see them be good enough for the postseason or bad enough for general manager Ruben Amaro  Jr. to tear the whole thing down and start over.

Personally, I don’t think this team is good enough over the long haul to be as consistent as they should be. At the same time, they are capable enough to make liars out of us all.

Frandsen’s Walk-Off Home Run Saves the Day for Philly

23 Jun

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report

Ryan Howard hit his first home run since May 29.  Photo by Webster Riddick

Ryan Howard hit two home runs in Saturday’s win over the Mets. . Photo by Webster Riddick

PHILADELPHIA—After the New York Mets tied the game in the top of the ninth, Phillies pinch hitter Kevin Frandsen was hoping to just reach first base on a single or to get a ball in the gap for a double that would put him in scoring position.

With the Phillies on the verge of a monumental collapse after closer Jonathan Papelbon blew his third save opportunity of the week, Frandsen got a lot more than he was bargaining for and then some.

It was Frandsen’s walk-off home run off Mets reliever Carlos Torres in the bottom of the ninth that gave the Phillies 8-7 win over the New York Mets in a game the Phils thought they had wrapped up somewhere around the sixth inning.

“You get one chance,” Frandsen said. “I’m trying to get on base, you know that. You guys have seen my career numbers. I’m not a big home run hitter. Fortunately, I got a pitch to hit, I did something with it. Nine times out of 10, who knows what happens. That one time, I got him.”

For the first six innings, the Phillies had a 7-1 lead and it looked as if the competitive portion of the game was all but over.

Rookie Jonathan Pettibone was having a pretty good outing before hurting his back early in the seventh inning.  He allowed just one while scattering five hits in six innings with a walk and two strikeouts.

Of course, the Phillies shaky bullpen gave this game more drama than it needed in the seventh inning. The pitching combination of Michael Stutes and Justin Da Fratus gave up four runs while allowing nine men to come to the plate to trim the lead to 7-5.

“I think we’re inexperienced. I like to see us be more aggressive where we attack hitters,” Manuel said. “I think we’re going to improve. It’s going to take a little while. They’ve got to get people out and improve their confidence.”

After Antonio Bastardo retired the Mets in order in the eighth, things fell apart in the top of the ninth.  With one out, Mets second baseman Jordany Valdespin hit a home run to right off Papelbon to cut the Phillies lead to 7-6.

Mets third baseman David Wright reached on a fielding error by Michael Young. Papelbon then retired Marlon Byrd on a flyout to right fielder John Mayberry Jr.

With Wright running on the pitch, David Murphy hit a grounder to the spot vacated by shortstop Jimmy Rollins who was coming to cover second. The ball got past Rollins into left center field where Ben Revere inexplicably stepped in front of leftfielder Dom Brown to field the ball.

Taking advantage of Revere’s weak arm, Wright scored the tying run to force the Phillies to come to bat in the bottom of the ninth.

Without any fear of contradiction, it is safe to say that the man Phillies affectionately call the “Big Piece”-Ryan Howard-is back. At the very least, he’s dialed in.

In the last 10 games coming into this afternoon’s game against the Mets, Howard was batting .405 with six multi-hit games and seven runs batted in.

“It’s a long season,” Howard said. “I think people get so caught up in what it is you’re doing right now and you forget it’s 162 games. It comes when it comes. Over the course of the season, you’re going to have ups and downs and just about how you ride them out and just continue to work through it.”

Howard went 3-for-4 with four runs batted in with two home runs. Manuel had been saying throughout the season that Howard was going to eventually have one of those multi-hit, multi-home run games.

“He started getting more selective and started putting the fat part of the bat on the ball nice and easy,” Manuel said. “Usually when you do that, you get some timing. He did it and started do it consistently in games, especially against right-handers. You could see it today because he had good swings at the ball.”

The Phillies opened the scoring in the first inning on a singled by Howard to left  scored Utley and Michael Young, who both reached singles and advanced to second and third on a passed ball.

In the top of the third, the Mets cut the deficit to 2-1 on an RBI fielder’s choice by Valdespin that scored shortstop Omar Quintanilla, who singled to begin the inning and advanced third base.

The Phils took a 4-1 lead on a solo homer to left center by Howard and an RBI single by Revere that scored Domonic Brown who reached on a double.

In the fifth, the Phillies got back to back home runs from Young and Howard. Revere, who was 2-for-4, scored the Phillies final run after he stole third and the throw from Mets catcher John Buck sailed over Wright’s head into left field.

Love Him or Hate Him, LeBron James Fourth Quarter in Game Six Was Unforgettable

20 Jun

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

LeBron James is looking to come up big in Game 7 of the 2013 NBA Finals.

LeBron James is looking to come up big in Game 7 of the 2013 NBA Finals.

I don’t know if Game 7 of the 2013 NBA Finals is going to match up to the thriller that was Game 6, but we sure can hope.

In any event, the rollercoaster that was Game 6 of the NBA Finals between the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat was arguably one of the best of this generation and maybe of all-time. It definitely raised the bar for tonight’s  Game 7.

The Miami Heat toughed out a 103-100 overtime nail biter over the San Antonio Spurs that had more plot twists and turns than any episode of the ABC-TV series, “Scandal.”

This game had its share of heroes on both teams. When it looked like Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and the Spurs were going to blow the Heat out of the water, LeBron James refused to allow to Miami to go gently into that good night with an outstanding effort in the fourth quarter and in the overtime.

I am by no means a big LeBron fan of any sort and some of the criticism he gets is deserved for being hyped as “King James.”  At the same time, the negativity he gets is way over the top.

That said, a struggling James came into the fourth quarter shooting just 3-of-12 field and his team down by 10 points. He put his team on his back and did just about everything he could to put his team in position to eventually win it.

Not only did he score 16 points in the fourth quarter, he made plays on defense including a huge block on Duncan driving to the basket. Even when he had a few foibles along the way which included a turnover and some missed shots, James never quit and just kept finding ways to make plays.

That’s called “heart” ladies and gentleman. James would not let his team die even when Miami fans were filing out of the arena thinking that their team was done. He was like that line from a Rudyard Kipling poem: “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you.”

Finishing the game with a triple-double—32 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists, it’s safe to say James definitely kept his wits about him.
James’ big three-point bucket with 20.1 seconds left that put the Heat to within three actually came after he missed an attempted three-ball shot a few seconds earlier.

It was James missed three-point shot with under 10 seconds left that wound up in the hands of teammate Chris Bosh who passed it to Ray Allen, who sank the game-tying three-point bucket  that sent the game into overtime.
If you want to say Miami was lucky that James missed three-ball fell into Bosh’s hands, okay feel free.

To me, good things can happen when just you keep firing. Just as James carried his team when they needed him through much of the fourth quarter, Bosh with the critical rebound and Allen with the big-time three, lifted him when he needed them.
That’s called team work, folks—a foreign concept in an era where fans, including those of James, are foolishly caught up in the cult of personality and an overindulgence of individualism.

Even if Miami had lost this game and the Spurs had walked off with the title, I would say the same thing about James effort in that fourth quarter. He gave his team a chance to win or go down swinging.

And so beyond all the overblown hype of James’ most devoted disciples who see him as “The Chosen One ” and the ignoble impulses of his detractors who want him to lose just to prove James followers wrong, I thought Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals was an “instant classic.”

I suspect that James and the Heat and Parker and the Spurs will leave everything on the floor in Game 7.  I am also predicting that no matter how well James plays in a losing or winning effort, those who love him and those who loathe him will be arguing well into the night on Facebook and Twitter.

Manuel: Phillies Have to Play Better Baseball Day In and Day Out

18 Jun
Charlie Manuel said Phillies need play better baseball consistently.

Charlie Manuel said Phillies need play better baseball consistently.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

PHILADEPHIA—Aftergoing 3-7 on a 10-game road trip against a trio of bad to mediocre teams, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel is still trying to figure which team is going to show up on a nightly basis.

Will it be the team that won five in a row and went above .500 for a hot minute or the team that lost all three series on their last road trip? Manuel said he’s been waiting to see how good team can be all season.

“The big question that I always get from you guys (reporters) is, are we capable?” Manuel said. “I’ve yet to see that because we’ve got to play better baseball. We won five in a row and then we lost four, five games in a row. We’ve been playing the same baseball since the season started. That’s what I’ve seen.”

The Phillies (34-37) started their series against the Washington Nationals Monday night with a win, but the trick for them is to be more consistent and win series on a regular basis, something they’ve struggled with throughout this season.

To further illustrate the Phillies up and down season, Manuel talked about the series split the Phillies had against the Boston Red Sox last month in which they got outstanding efforts on the mound with Kyle Kendrick and Cliff Lee along with the hitting of Domonic Brown. But struggled to pitch and hit in the two losses.

“We had two pitchers who pitched two good games, we didn’t make any mistakes on defense and we got hits at the right time when we needed them. We didn’t blow nobody out, but we played sound baseball,” Manuel said. “In the other two games, if you go back and look, they put up more offense than we did and so therefore our pitching wasn’t as good as theirs and so they beat us. It goes back to consistency.”

The injuries to players like pitcher Roy Halladay, second baseman Chase Utley and catcher Carlos Ruiz, who came off the disabled list today, have certainly hindered the Phillies. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said he wants to get the injured players back on the field to see if the team is good enough to be a contender for the playoffs.

“I think we have some time yet because it’s not early by any means, but we still have to get these guys on the field and playing, so we’ll have a better idea of whether or not, with all the guys back, they’ll produce the way we think they would before they got hurt,” Amaro said.

With the July 31st trade line about month and a half way, Amaro said he hasn’t received many phone calls from teams because at this point in the season teams—including the Phillies—are still trying to figure out whether or not they will be contenders by the time the trade deadline rolls around.

“Certainly, there’s more opportunities to be in the playoffs than there were before and the fact that there’s no great teams out there,” Amaro said. “St. Louis is great and playing really well…Atlanta has played well, but no team has been all that extraordinary to run away so that leaves everybody in it.”

If the Phillies are going to be in it for the long haul they have to shore up a bullpen that has been quite frankly awful, especially the middle of the bullpen. They’ve allowed small leads to become bigger and they’ve let teams come from behind.

Manuel attributed the team’s middle relief struggles to the youth of his pitchers. Players like 28-year-old Jeremy Horst, who is currently on the disabled list, Justin Da Fratus, Phillipe Aumont and Jake Diekman have limited major league experience.

Manuel believes that at some point one of those pitchers is going to take ownership of that middle relief position that does well.

“I feel like they’re inexperienced,” Manuel said. “That tells the story. I think how they’ve pitched tells the story. You guys are watching the same game I’m watching. Every one of our pitchers have gotten to pitch. We’re definitely trying to match them up to the right time in the game.”

Against the Nationals Monday night, the back of the Phillies bullpen allowed two runs in the final two innings including a ninth-inning solo home run off closer Jonathan Papelbon by Washington pinch-hitter Chad Tracy.

Luckily, Brown’s RBI single in the ninth saved the day for the Phillies.

Teams have a .271 batting average against a Phillies bullpen that has a 4.49 earned run average. Manuel said it’s due to a lack of experience and is waiting for someone outside of Mike Adams or Jonathan Papelbon to be someone he can count on to keep the team in the game and stop teams from moving into the lead.


Brown’s Walk-Off Single in the Bottom of the Ninth Sinks Washington

18 Jun

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Brown's single in the ninth gives the Phillies a walk-off win. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Brown’s single in the ninth gives the Phillies a walk-off win. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—When Washington Nationals pinch-hitter Chad Tracy hit a game-tying home run off closer Jonathan Papelbon in the top of the ninth inning, it was looking like it was going another night in which fans would be complaining about the Phillies shaky bullpen.

Instead, Papelbon, who blew his first save since last  September, got the win.

Thanks to Domonic Brown’s walk-off RBI single off Nationals reliever Fernando Abad in the bottom of the ninth, the Phillies came away with a 5-4 win over Washington in front of a sell-out crowd of 44, 990 at Citizen’s Bank Park.

Brown, who has been struggling since his hot month of May, said he told Papelbon that the offense was going to take him off the hook in their half of the ninth.

“I told him that we’re going to fight for him and we ended up coming up with the win,” Brown said. “I was trying to stay short and quick especially with a tough lefty like Abad. “

The Phillies started that bottom of the ninth with a single to center by Ben Revere. After third baseman Michael Young flied out to center, shortstop Jimmy Rollins singled to left center while Revere went to third. Abad struckout pinch hitter Steven Lerud, but could not retire Brown, who drove home Revere with the winning run.

On the mound, the Phillies got a solid effort from left-handed starter John Lannan, who pitched pretty well considering that he just got off the disabled list. He pitched five innings and allowed just two runs on six hits.

Lannan also had four strikeouts with one walk and threw 92 pitches. After being on the disabled list since April, Lannan said he felt good about his performance.

“I wish I could have gone deeper in the ball game, but it was good for progress. In the fifth inning I felt pretty good,” Lannan said. “I got into some deep counts so it was really about pounding the strike zone and getting ahead of guys.”

Ryan Howard hit his first home run since May 29.  Photo by Webster Riddick

Ryan Howard hit his first home run since May 29. Photo by Webster Riddick

The long ball finally returned to the bat of Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard. His second inning solo-home run that tied the game at 1-1 was his first since May 29, a span of 17 games and 71 plate appearances. He also had an RBI single.

“He was staying on the ball and he was trying to put the fat part of the bat and hit it hard,” said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. “His home run look it was little bit in home, he hit through it, got up an air and it went out.

“If Ryan hits for a high average, he hits .280 or .300, he’ll knock in a lot of runs and he’ll a lot of home runs, too.

Oddly enough, Howard, who has been bothered by arthritis in his left knee, has been hitting the ball well recently. In his last 10 games leading into Monday night’s game, Howard was 11-for-33 with a .333 average and four runs batted in. He also eight hits in his last 12 at-bats.

“It’s been a grind just to go out there and do what I can. I was able to get a couple of knocks tonight,” Howard said. “I’m trying to put together some good at-bats and just let the power comes as it comes and good get good pitches to hit. I was able to get one, elevate it and put a good swing on it.”

The Nationals took a 1-0 lead in the first on an RBI single by Jayson Werth that scored second baseman Anthony Rendon. Howard’s home run in the second tied it.

Delmon Young’s RBI double that scored Rollins and Michael Young gave the Phillies a 3-1 lead in the third. The Nats would cut the deficit to 3-2 on a run-scoring double by left fielder Steve Lombardozzi in the fourth inning.

In the fifth, Howard’s RBI single  that scored  Revere gave the Phillies a 4-2 lead. The Nationals would score a run in the eighth. They tied it in the ninth with Tracy’s home run.



There’s Nothing Wrong With Dom Brown’s Post-Home Run Celebration

7 Jun

By Chris Murray 

Dom Brown's post-home run celebration is apparently frowned upon by some scouts and some Phillies opponents.

Dom Brown’s post-home run celebration is apparently frowned upon by some scouts and some Phillies opponents.

For the Chris Murray Report and The Philadelphia Sunday Sun

PHILADELPHIA–Suffice it to say that Domonic Brown is playing lights out baseball for a Phillies team that has managed to get back to .500 after Wednesday’s win over the Miami Marlins.

If you look at the raw numbers, Brown has hit home runs in 10 of his last 13 games coming into Friday’s games and leads the National League in homeruns with 18 including a two-run shot he hit in Wednesday’s game.  He was named the National League’s Player of the Month for May and has been the National Player-of-the-Week in two straight weeks.

For a young man that had fans and media people calling him a bust and demanding that he be traded after a disastrous stint with the Big Club in 2011, Brown has more than proven his critics wrong with his performance, putting some energy into a Phillies offense that has looked lifeless at times.

On the field, he plays with enthusiasm and is finally looking like he is enjoying himself.

It’s that exuberance that seems to be rankling some folks.

Apparently, Brown’s home run celebration, a low-key martial arts number complete with a high-five with fellow slugger Ryan Howard has some unnamed scouts, opponents and executives a little peeved according to a story in Wednesday’s Philadelphia Inquirer.

When Brown hit his 17th homer on Monday, he flipped his bat and then did his martial arts handshake with Howard after he crossed home plate. Shortly before the postgame press conference I heard some of my colleagues saying that he shouldn’t be showing that kind of swag because he’s only been hot for a month and that he’s coming off too cocky.

Ironically, another white reporter that covers the Phillies said admonished his colleagues and said, and I’m paraphrasing,  ‘Wow! A Black guy showing personality and you guys are complaining. Really? At that point, I told him, “I’ll let you say it because they don’t want to hear it from me.”

One of the things that have always bothered me about sports is the reaction that the mostly white press corps tends to have whenever a Black athlete shows some sort of self-confidence, or as the kids call it, swag. To many of them, even the most liberal and fair-minded of my colleagues, this kind of self-assuredness, which is often viewed as a positive when it comes from a White player, is seen as a form of arrogance when it comes to players of color. Even if that player, like Brown, is quick to credit his teammates and admits that he still has much to learn.

That’s why I tend to scratch my head when guys like Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon and others pump their fists every time they get the final out in a game for the win and no one complains, but Brown’s home run trot, usually the symbol of a Phillies win, rankles.

But this double standard isn’t a new one. It’s as if the Athletic Entertainment Complex has never been able to figure out what to do with the Black Athlete and what he brings to the table.

From heavyweight champion Jack Johnson smiling at his opponents as he was whipping them in the ring, to slam dunks so flashy that the NCAA once  outlawed them in the college game, to Ken Griffey Jr. wearing his baseball cap backwards during batting practice, folks seem to get bent out of shape when Black athletes bring a little panache and showmanship to sports.

Isn’t this, after all, the entertainment business?

As I was writing this piece, I went to where you can find quick opinions on everything…Facebook…and saw the reaction from Blackworld to what was written about Brown. Most folks saw it as another case of white backlash against a Black player showing a little swag and self-confidence in a sport where self-expression is often frowned upon.

It was also another example of why baseball is still a hard sell to young people. Unlike football and basketball, baseball is mired in so much so-called traditionalism that it has no flair.

In the Inquirer article, it was implied that Brown might soon be giving Phillies Second Baseman Chase Utley a run for his money in the team’s “hit by a pitch” race due to his home run antics.

While an opposing pitcher might feel justified in throwing a ball at your head because he thinks you’ve shown him up by hitting a home run and doing an intricate dance with the guy that took him yard before you did, it’s not cool.

What opposing pitchers should do to Brown if they’re really that upset about what he does after he’s hit a home run is, well, keep him from hitting home runs. Put it over the plate in a place where he can’t get his arms extended. Strike him out. Make it so that if he does connect with the ball, all it does is go to one of your teammates.

This way, he’s just another out, the bat goes back into the bat rack, and all is well.

You’ve done your job.

And isn’t doing your job the best revenge here?

Phillies Blast Marlins: Brown Homers Again, Kendrick Tosses a Complete Game

4 Jun

By Chris Murray

Kyle Kendrick allowed just one hit after Marlins got five hits and two runs in the first three inings. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Kyle Kendrick allowed just one hit after Marlins got five hits and two runs in the first three inings. Photo by Webster Riddick.

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

PHILADELPHIA—You have to figure that at some point Domonic Brown is going to slow down and come back down to earth with the rest of his fellow human beings at least a little bit, right?

Monday night was definitely not that night.

Brown continued his streak of knocking the cover off the ball by going 3-for-4 and hitting his ninth home run in 10 games while Kyle Kendrick pitched his first complete game of the season in the Phillies 7-2 win over the Miami Marlins at Citizen’s Bank Park.

After being named the National League’s Player of the Month and Player of the Week in the same day, Brown showed no signs of letting up and broke a close game open with a two-run homer in a four-run sixth inning.

Brown has five hits in his last six at-bats. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Brown has five hits in his last six at-bats. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Not only did Brown hit one out of the park, but so did catcher Erik Kratz and right fielder Delmon Young. The Phillies are proof positive of how one guy’s hot hitting can be contagious for the rest of the team.

“It’s great and it definitely affects and the people that are playing around him, it affects them, too,” said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. “It kind of molds your offense together. When I was over in Cleveland, I never knew how much Albert Belle meant to our lineup until he was gone when everybody used to hit with him.”

Added Brown: “I always say hitting is contagious. I’m just trying to bring my energy to the ball club and we got a lot of guys out there that’s having a lot of fun as well, so we’re just trying to keep it up.”

Meanwhile, Kendrick had his best performance of the season by pitching all nine innings and allowing just two runs on six hits with five strikeouts and one walk. Kendrick also helped his own cause at the plate with a triple which featured a head-first slide into third and an RBI.

“My change-up was good later on in the game,” Kendrick said. “I was working ahead, trying to get strike ones. I felt like I was doing that a lot just pounding the strike zone.”

After the Marlins had taken a 2-0 lead in third inning on RBI singles by Derek Dietrich and Marcel Ozuna, Kendrick settled down and allowed just one hit the rest of the game.

“After the (third) inning, he started changing speeds on them and every now and then throwing back-to-back change-ups and mixing in a hook,” Manuel said. “When he got to his sinker, he was ahead in the count. He could put it out of the strike zone where they could chase it. He pitched a heck of a game.”

The Phillies offense scored its seven runs in a span of two innings starting with a home run by Kratz in the fifth inning. After Kendrick tripled, he was brought home on an RBI single by center fielder Ben Revere, who would later score on a ground out by second baseman Cesar Hernandez.

In the sixth, Ryan Howard cracked a lead-off double to the gap in left center. Then Brown launched his National League-leading 17th homer of the season to the left field seats. Marlins starting pitcher Tom Koehler started Brown with a couple of off-speed pitches.

“It definitely felt good, I’m not going to say I knew the off-speed was coming, but I was looking for it there and he left the pitch up,” Brown said. “I’ve always been a guy that’s fought and battled in the box, nothing’s changed there. It’s just connecting on the pitches that they’re leaving up.”

In his six at-bats, Brown has five hits and two home runs. He is now batting .291.

Brown’s homer was followed by a solo shot by Young. The Phillies added two more runs a ground by Kendrick that scored third baseman Freddy Galvis, who reached on a triple.