By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report/Philadelphia Sunday Sun
PHILADELPHIA—With the All-Star Break on the horizon at the end of this homestand, both Charlie Manuel and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. want to know how really good 2013 Phillies during these next 10 games.
With this first-place Atlanta Braves in town for a three-game weekend series, the Phillies will have a golden opportunity to show how good they really are while also making up some ground in the National League East.
The Phillies got off to a good start on their road to redemption with a 5-4 win over the Atlanta Braves on a hot, humid night at Citizen’s Bank Park. With the victory, the third-place Phils moved within seven and a half games behind the Braves in the National League East.
“It tells me that we have to play like hell,” Manuel said after the game. “It tells me that we have to go out here and play even keel and stay with our philosophy.”
For Manuel, who said before the game that he isn’t sure how good his team is at this point, it has to be a start in the right direction. It was the Phillies third win in their last four games.
Of course, the hard part for the Phillies will be doing on a more consistent basis. But Friday night’s game was a good start.
“I got a good feel for our team right now,” Manuel said. “If we keep scoring some runs and our pitching holds up. Who knows what we can do? You don’t ever give up. You stay there and fight and grind it out. There’s luck in the game. But if you play good, you make a lot of luck.”
Offensively, the Phillies scored enough runs to win. Chase Utley scored the game’s first run on a throwing error by Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman. Utley reached on a double.
In the second inning, catcher Humberto Quintero came up big for the Phillies with three batted in. The first two came on a two-run homer to right in the second inning that had to be reviewed by the umpire. The ball went over the railing after being touched by a fan.
Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard added a solo homer in the third off the Braves left-hander Paul Maholm, who gave up five runs (four earned) off nine hits. Quintero closed out the scoring in the sixth inning with an RBI double that drove home Delmon Young, who reached on a single.
By the seventh inning, the Phillies had a 5-0 lead.
Meanwhile, Cliff Lee had been pitching shutout ball through six innings, but apparently got worn down by the heat and humidity. The Braves touched him four runs in that inning including a three-run homer by second baseman Dan Uggla.
Lee (10-2), who won his eighth straight, said the heat was no excuse for the pitch he threw to Uggla.
“I threw five changeups in a row and had two strikes on him,” Lee said. “I tried to throw a fast ball up and in. It was up, but it wasn’t as in as much as I wanted. He got on top of it, put a good swing on it and hit a home run.
“I’m going to blame it on the heat. We all play in the same conditions. It was hot and humid, but that’s an excuse.”
After Lee gave up the four runs in the seventh, the Phillies relievers J.C. Ramirez, Antonio Bastardo shut the Braves down and allowed just one hit the rest of the way.