ANAHEIM - A.J. Burnett was chugging along at Angel Stadium en route to what looked like his best start in 3 weeks.
He had held the Angels to two hits in the game’s first five innings. Burnett had allowed only one runner to reach scoring position in that span.
The sixth inning started out just fine for Burnett, too, as he was able to get Mike Trout to tap out to shortstop. But then Albert Pujols hit a blistering double down the leftfield line and Burnett was broken.
For the second straight night, the Angels' offense woke up in the sixth inning and took control of the game. Howie Kendrick’s two-run single keyed last night's rally, giving the home team the lead for good, in the Angels 4-3 win over the Phillies.
Are the Phillies worth watching anymore this season?
“A crooked number in the sixth, 2 nights in a row,” manager Ryne Sandberg said.
The Phils (53-68) have lost five of their last six games.
In the first of a brief, two-game series at Angel Stadium, new Phillies righthander Jerome Williams took a shutout into the sixth inning before serving up a home run to Kole Calhoun. The Angels ended up batting around in the inning to take control of the game.
Last night, Burnett gave up a one-out double to Pujols and then his very next pitch plunked Josh Hamilton in the leg. Then he walked Erick Aybar on five pitches to load the bases.
The walk was Burnett’s major league-leading 72nd of the season.
With an opportunity to dig his team out of a 2-1 deficit, Kendrick jumped on the first pitch and sliced it down the rightfield line. The ball landed just inside the chalk, bringing both Pujols and Hamilton in with the game-tying and go-ahead runs.
“The walk ended up being the winning run,” Sandberg said.
“I don’t mind my walks,” said Burnett, who walked four. “I made my pitches after that. Then they bloop one in and a ground ball with the second baseman covering, that’s part of baseball.”
The latter play came when Chase Utley went to cover second and David Freese singled through the left side of the infield. It didn’t lead to a run.
Regardless, the sixth inning would be the last for Burnett, who was charged with four runs on five hits.
Burnett leads the big leagues in walks and is second in the NL with 10 hit batsmen.
“He’s just not making the opposition earn their baserunners,” Sandberg said. “And sometimes when they add up with a hit or two … a lot of times it seems like walks end up scoring somehow, they find a way to score. Tonight it was a blooper, a jam shot, but walks tend to score in one way or another. Sometimes that gets the best of A.J.”
Burnett has a 6.54 ERA in six starts since the All-Star break. He has a 4.93 ERA in his last 15 starts.
The Phillies have lost six straight games Burnett has started and 11 of the 15 games he’s taken the mound since May 30.
“It’s in my control,” Burnett said. “Lock in. The season’s not over. It definitely hasn’t gone the way I’ve wanted it to or anyone else has wanted it to. … I’m a positive person. The sun is going to come up. I have to figure out a way to battle and grind.”
Ruf back to bench
Darin Ruf’s first multi-hit game of the year on Tuesday didn’t win him a spot in the lineup for a third straight game last night.
Domonic Brown and Grady Sizemore were slotted in the corner outfield spots, Ryan Howard played first base and Marlon Byrd was the designated hitter, as Ryne Sandberg stacked his lineup with lefthanded hitters against Jered Weaver. Weaver was holding righthanded hitters to a .196 batting average entering the game.
Sandberg, however, did acknowleged he needs to be able to see more of both Ruf and Brown in the final 6 weeks of the season, so the Phillies have a better read on both players going into 2015. But while Brown has been getting regular play for most of the season, Ruf was injured for most of the season’s first half.
“Not being able to have a string of at-bats, it's hard to really get a gauge still,” Sandberg said.
Then why not test him against Weaver for that very reason?
“Yeah, well, that's the tricky part of making up the lineups and also trying to win a game,” the manager said.
Jesse Biddle’s next start will come at Double A Reading. The 22-year-old Biddle, the Phillies first-round pick in 2010, left the Reading Phillies in late June when the organization gave the struggling pitcher a “mental break.” Biddle was 3-9 with a 5.09 ERA in 15 starts at Reading, his second straight season with the Double A club. Biddle returned to the mound last week at Class A Clearwater. He went 2-0 with a 0.90 ERA in two starts for the Threshers. … After Mike Trout went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts on Tuesday night, Ryne Sandberg was asked about his team’s ability to handcuff the perennial MVP favorite and Millville, N.J., native. “Let's knock on some wood,” Sandberg said. “We seem to be pitching him tough. I don't want to reveal any secrets.” Trout went 0-4 again last night. He hit .118 (2-for-17) with seven strikeouts in four games against the Phillies this season. … The Phillies have their second day off in the span of 11 days today, before beginning a three-game series in San Francisco tomorrow. The Phils also have scheduled days off in each of the next three Thursdays, too.