Turns out a little Trevor Richards was all the Phillies offense needed to emerge from its long funk. Richards, an undrafted rookie righthander, had actually pitched very well in his last dozen games for the Marlins, posting a 3.55 ERA and striking out 71 in 63 1/3 innings. But Carlos Santana opened the game Tuesday night with a solo home run and triggered a four-run first inning that included a bases-loaded triple from Cesar Hernandez.
"It gave my teammates energy, especially early in the game," Santana said.
The Phillies went on to win, 9-4, with the help of 7 1/3 innings from veteran righthander Jake Arrieta, who struck out a season-high 11 and picked up his first win since July 31. Arrieta had gone 0-3 with a 4.50 ERA in August. The Phillies closed to within three games of the first-place Braves, who lost at Boston, in the NL East.
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Almost no one would ever look at Carlos Santana and think leadoff hitter, but that is what the Phillies first baseman was Tuesday, and it was the second time in the last four games that manager Gabe Kapler put him there.
The result was outstanding. Santana opened the game with a home run and finished with two hits and two RBIs, and the Phillies ended a three-game losing streak with the win over Miami. It was the fifth time this season that Santana batted first in the order, and he has had success there, going 7 for 20 (.350) with a double, a home run and two walks.
The idea of hitting Santana first was actually started two years ago in Cleveland by Indians manager Terry Francona. Santana hit first 123 times in his last two seasons in Cleveland, and he is a .256 hitter with a .372 on-base percentage and .845 OPS in 128 games out of the top spot in the order. The only place in the order he has been more productive is out of the five hole.
Santana, who has struggled mightily at times this season, has been a hot hitter lately. He has a hit in nine of the team's last 10 games, batting .317 (13 for 41) with three doubles, three home runs and eight RBIs.
So will he hit first again in the series finale against the Marlins?
"It's really interesting because in some ways you'd say consistency would be running the same lineup back out there, but really I think the consistent move is to examine the lineup and see what makes sense tomorrow," Kapler said last night.
Carlos Santana set the tone for the Phillies' win over the Marlins with his leadoff home run, but our Scott Lauber noted that it was slumping second baseman Cesar Hernandez who had the biggest hit during a four-run first inning. Hernandez delivered a three-run triple to make it 4-0.
News of Joe Jordan's departure from the organization came early Tuesday. Jordan had been the team's director of player development since October 2011, and the Phillies farm system had shown tremendous improvement during his tenure.
My column on Joe Jordan notes that managing partner John Middleton wanted general manager Matt Klentak to implement change when he was hired three years ago, and this is another indication that is happening.
Tonight: Nick Pivetta works series finale vs. Miami's Sandy Alcantara, 7:10 p.m.
Tomorrow: Off day in the Big Apple
Friday: Aaron Nola vs. Mets' Steven Matz in opener at Citi Field, 7:10 p.m.
Saturday: Zach Eflin vs. Noah Syndergaard, 7:10 p.m.
Sunday: Vince Velasquez vs. Jacob deGrom, 1:10 p.m.
It has been well documented that the Phillies have not won a series since they swept four games from the Marlins at Citizens Bank Park from Aug. 1-4. Since then, they've lost two of three in Arizona, lost two of three in San Diego, split a pair of games at home with Boston, lost three of five at home to the Mets, lost two of three at Washington, lost two of three at Toronto, lost two of three at home to Washington, and lost two of three at home to the Cubs.
In that span, the Phillies had four chances to win a series by taking the final game and they were outscored 31-6 in those games. The overall team batting average in those four games was .215 (28 for 130), and the team average with runners in scoring position was .150 (3 for 20). Four starters worked those games — Vince Velasquez, Jake Arrieta, Nick Pivetta and Aaron Nola — and they combined to allow 19 runs in 18 1/3 innings for a 9.33 ERA.
Pivetta has the opportunity to help the Phillies get a series win Wednesday.
I don't think it's a coincidence that the Phillies slide started just about the same time the minor league season ended. We have a lot of new, even if they are not truly rookies, on the team. 162 games is a lot to play when your body is used to shutting down after 100. I still feel they'll get better each year. What do you think?
beetlebob13, via email