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Out of the Batter’s Box [5.17.2012] – Hector Luna grand slam gives Phillies some swagger
Hector Luna’s grand slam in the ninth inning put the cherry on top of a fine evening for the Phillies in Chicago.
Photo: Getty Images 

I tweeted toward the end of the Phillies 9-2 victory in Wrigley Field last night that this was the kind of win where we would wake up the next morning and wonder aloud if the Phillies got their swagger back. For the first time all season the Phillies have won four consecutive games, thanks to a more than adequate performance by the much-maligned Kyle Kendrick on the mound, even in the face of adversity.

Sure, Kendrick allowed a two-run home run to Alfonso Soriano moments after Juan Pierre dropped a fly ball in left field, but it was a night in which Kendrick battled back.  After serving up the two-run shot to Soriano, Kendrick found his way to first base off of Matt Garza, and Pierre followed up with a double down the left field line as he attempted to do what he coudl to get the lead back. The Phillies would score one run in the failed shutdown inning from Garza, and Carlos Ruiz (who else?) smacked a solo shot of his own to left field in the eighth inning to put the Phillies back on top.

The Phillies looked to pad their lead in the ninth, and did they ever. Freddy Galvis (now hitting .235) started the inning off with a double, which seems out of place without a runner already on base. Mike Fontenot was hit by a pitch, and Jimmy Rollins went to the plate looking to bunt the runners over but accepted a four-pitch walk instead. Ty Wigginton’s two-RBI single pushed the lead to three runs as Jonathan Papelbon was warming up for the bottom of the inning, but he would not be needed on this night.

Hector Luna, just added to the roster for a short period of time, stepped to the plate looking to carry over some of his late inning heroics from Clearwater. He must have been picturing the tiki bar in left field because that is where he delivered a pitch with authority, for his first career grand slam. It could not have come at a better time for the him and the Phillies, and you really could not have scripted it any better.

It was one of those wins that has all of the ingredients of a team that does not quit. The error in the outfield made up for by the player who committed it. The starting pitcher who gives up the potential back-breaking home run who leads off the next inning with a single. The late-inning home run for the team’s ost deserving All-Star candidate. The late outburst of runs keyed by unsung heroes just called up from the minors.

This is the kind of game the Phillies would have lost a month ago. This is the kind of game the Phillies would win when things are going right in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011.

Continue reading for some recommended links, a look at what happened in the NL East last night and the updated NL East standings…

The victory did come with some troubling news, though. Placido Polanco had to leave the game early after fouling a baseball off of his left knee. Polanco is not expected to play Thursday night, and Luna may get the call to start in his place at third base.

Earlier in the day Vance Worley was placed on the 15-day disabled list with elbow inflammation. Kyle Kendrick took Worley’s spot in the starting rotation last night as a fill-in, and it is expected that he will hold on to the starting spot until Worley returns. If he pitches the way he did last night (albeitagainst a weak team), then he will continue to prove his value to the team.

The Phillies wil look to get over the .500 mark for the first time since winning on Opening Day tonight in the final game of a brief two-game series with the Cubs. Roy Halladay, who succumbed to heat exhaustion last year in the friendly confines, will look to end his personal win drought, now sitting at five games. The longest winless drought of his career is six games.

Yesterday in the NL East

Phillies 9, Cubs 2

Nationals 7, Pirates 4

Bryce Harper hit another home run and the Nationals pushed a half game ahead of the Atlanta Braves. Things might start to get tougher for the Nats though, or they will prove to be a legitimate contender, with their upcoming schedule. This weekend the Nats host the AL East leading Baltimore Orioles (cue the Beltway World Series preview dreams now), and then they head to Philadelphia for three games against what may be a revitalized Phillies squad (maybe?). Road trips to Atlanta and Miami follow to wrap up the month of May. Take a look at the June schedule too. Home against the Braves and Mets in key division games before opening up the extended Interleague schedule on the road in Boston and Toronto, then hosting the Yankees and Rays.

The Nationals are surely a decent team right now. If they can emerge through that stretch without losing much ground in the division, they will truly be considered for real.

Reds 6, Mets 3

Congratulations to the New York Mets. They will be hosting next season’s All-Star Game, and will be doing so for the first time since 1964, when Johnny Callison smacked a walk-off home run for a 7-4 National League victory.

I continue to be amazed that Citizens Bank Park:

A.) Has not hosted a mid-summer classic yet

B.) It remains a stadium rarely discussed as a candidate

But it is hard to argue against the Mets getting the game. The Phillies have hosted two all-star games since the last time the Mets got to do it. It will also be good for the Mets to get a packed house in their stadium (I’m not poking fun, I legitimately mean it).

Marlins 8, Braves 4

Jose Reyes stole home for the first time in his career, and the Marlins pulled in to a third place tie with his former team with an 8-4 win in Atlanta. Mark Buehrle picked up the win thanks to a back-to-back three-run innings in the fourth and fifth.

Updated NL East Standings

  1. 23-14 Nationals
  2. 23-15 Braves (0.5 GB)
  3. 20-17 Marlins (3.0 GB)
    20-17 Mets (3.0 GB)
  4. 19-19 Phillies (4.5 GB)

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