IN THE MIDST of a pending trade with the Texas Rangers, which has franchise cornerstone Cole Hamels and lefthanded reliever Jake Diekman being exchanged for five prospects and another player already in the big leagues, the Phillies had a date with the Atlanta Braves last night to kick off a four-game homestand.
The whereabouts of both Hamels and Diekman was a hot topic in the Phillies clubhouse throughout the day.
"I'm excited for him to go somewhere and get a little change of scenery, 'cause I know the kind of pitcher he is and I know what he can do, and who knows, maybe just a different stadium might do him some good," righthanded reliever Justin DeFratus said of Diekman, his bullpen mate, before the game.
Things got a little weird at Citizens Bank Park, though, as Diekman was seen coming in and out of the bullpen during the game.
As for Hamels, manager Pete Mackanin said after the game that "he might have been lurking in the shadows somewhere."
Nonetheless, the hoopla didn't seem to bother the Phils, as they handed the Braves their fourth loss in a row, 4-1, behind five solid innings from Aaron Harang; The 37-year-old righty picked up his fifth win of the season, allowing nine hits and one run, and striking out three batters. Of his 96 pitches, 62 were strikes.
It was Harang's first start since July 1, after going on the disabled list with plantar fasciitis in his left foot.
"It's been a little while; it's been kind of a grind this last month," Harang said. "We felt confident doing the work we did in Chicago that everything was going to be good, and I knew, endurance-wise, as far as throwing, I was going to be OK to be out there and give 85, 90 pitches."
In the third inning, Braves catcher A.J. Pierzynski beat out an infield chopper to score rightfielder Nick Markakis for the game's first run, but the Phils responded quickly.
Catcher Carlos Ruiz, in his 1,000th regular-season game as a Phillie, stepped up to the plate with one out and the bases loaded in the fourth, and he delivered, big time. Ruiz belted a single to left-centerfield, just missing the mitt of Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons, to drive in centerfielder Odubel Herrera and shortstop Freddy Galvis for a 2-1 Phillies lead. The Phillies tacked on another run in the fifth when first baseman Ryan Howard singled to score second baseman Cesar Hernandez.
Then, things started to get weird again.
When Domonic Brown approached the plate to lead off the bottom of the sixth, the 27-year-old leftfielder was facing a homerless streak spanning 46 games and 162 plate appearances.
With a swift swing on the first pitch, Brown threw those statistics out the window, belting his first homer since Sept. 16, 2014.
"Well, he hit a missile, I know that; it was nice to see," Mackanin said of Brown's blast. "He's been so concerned about the outer half of the plate, I think he's got to remember that mistakes are made out over the plate, not on the inner half, and he's got to get back to that."
Righthanded pitcher David Buchanan will take the mound for the Phillies in Game 2 of the series tonight at 7:05.