The Phillies offense, led by shortstop Jimmy Rollins, 1st baseman Ryan Howard and 3rd baseman Pedro Feliz, broke open Thursday’s opener with the Milwaukee Brewers in the fifth inning by pounding Jeff Suppan for 6 runs while rookie lefthander J.A. Happ and the Phillies bullpen maintained the momentum the rest of the way. Feliz had 2 hits and 2 RBIs, Howard had 2 hits and an RBI, centerfielder Shane Victorino went 3 for 5 and Happ helped his own cause with a fifth inning RBI single. J-Roll’s 3 run shot to rightfield capped the 6 run fifth inning as the Phillies’ offense took control pounding the Brewers by a 9-4 score in their series opener.
The Phils’ NL East division lead increased to 7 games over 2nd place Atlanta and 7 1/2 over 3rd place Florida, both of whom had Thursday off. The Phils’ magic number to clinch the division now stands at 4 games.
With the back-end of the Phils’ bullpen in crisis, the key to Phillies’ success seems to be: get control early and not let momentum shift. We saw that work in game 1 of Tuesday’s doubleheader with Florida and we saw it again here. In Wednesday’s series final against the Marlins, we saw what can happen when the momentum shifts without a sufficient closer. On Thursday, although the Phils grabbed control of the game and held it throughout, Manuel and Amaro have got to come up with a closer solution — and fast.
The Phils were first to hit the scoreboard on Howard’s 2 out RBI single to right centerfield. The Brewers knotted the score in the third on 2nd baseman Felipe Lopez lined a ball off of Happ which deflected to Utley whose throw was juggled by Howard. Catcher Jason Kendall, who reached with a triple, scored on the play. Feliz got the run back in the fourth as he and leftfielder Ben Francisco hit back-to-back doubles to open the inning. The Phils had 2 chances for more but Feliz was out at home on a fielders choice by Victorino. With runners having advanced to 2nd and 3rd base on the previous out, Utley popped out to end the inning.
With the Phils up by 2-1 and Happ through four innings with a 2 hitter, the Phils broke this one wide open pounding Suppan for a 6 run fifth inning. The Phillies Nation blog recaps the inning:
Jayson Werth started the hit-parade in the fifth when he reached base on a one-out throwing error. Following the error, the Phillies scored three runs on four straight singles, including an R.B.I. single from pitcher J.A. Happ. Jimmy Rollins capped off the inning with a three-run shot to give the Phillies the commanding 8-1 lead.
With the six run inning, the Phillies tied the Brewers for the most innings with five or more runs scored at 23.
With the Phils now up 8-1, the Brewers scored a 2nd run against Happ in the sixth as 1st baseman Prince Fielder and 3rd baseman Casey McGehee pounded back-to-back doubles with Fielder scoring on McGehee’s. With 2 out in the sixth Happ gave way to reliever Chad Durbin who went 1 1/3 innings and who, in turn handed the ball to Tyler Walker who pitched the eighth innings — both shutting Milwaukee down uneventfully.
Rollins scored the Phillies final run from 3rd base on Felipe Lopez’s fielding error of Howard’s grounder in the eighth. Reliever Clay Condrey gave up 2 ninth inning garbage runs as the Phils had the game well out of the Brewers’ reach.
Winning pitcher Happ went 5 2/3 innings throwing 91 pitches and giving up 2 runs on 6 hits while walking 2 and striking out 7 to extend his record to 11-4 with a NL-leading rookie 2.79 ERA. Losing pitcher Jeff Suppan went 4 1/3 innings throwing 105 pitches and giving up 8 runs on 12 hits while walking 2, striking out 2 and giving up Rollins’ 3 run shot in the sixth. Suppan’s record dropped to 7-11 — no “Lady-Luck” here.
For the scores of all of Thursday’s games click here.