New Castle News


July 3, 2013

Phillies snap Pirates’ nine-game winning streak

PITTSBURGH — The Phillies have no room for imperfection if they want to prevent veteran players who are in the final season of their contracts from being traded away.

When they get a three-run lead, they cannot lose it — ever. Period. Not anymore.

Maybe it takes some luck to protect every lead. The Phillies certainly got enough of that Tuesday night when they opened their must-win three-game series with the Pirates by hanging on for a 3-1 win at PNC Park.

The pivotal moment came in the bottom of the eighth after Neil Walker’s two-out single off Antonio Bastardo loaded the bases and put Charlie Manuel in a predicament: Should he call on closer Jonathan Papelbon to get a four-out save in his first outing in nearly a week? Or turn to right-hander Justin De Fratus, who had three straight outings on the West Coast portion of the trip where he gave up runs that either broke ties or blew leads and got the losing decisions?

The temptation was to call on Papelbon.

“It was tempting as hell,” Manuel said. “It was tempting.

“I didn’t want to have (Papelbon) in there with the bases loaded, then send him back out (for the ninth). He has a history where it’s tough for him to get back up.”

Instead, he gave the ball to De Fratus, who started with a first-pitch strike to Jordy Mercer and stayed in charge of the entire showdown, striking out Pittsburgh’s rookie shortstop with a slider that had him pounding his glove in an emotional release of the frustration that built over his failures.

“Honestly,” De Fratus said, “I figured, I’ve already failed enough. I’m going to get this one done.

“All joking aside, I thought, ‘This is a chance to redeem yourself. So get it done.’ … It’s not getting angry, but I do feed off the fact that people think they’ve beaten me. I’ve been beaten plenty of times in the minors and I got through it. So by no means is it over. You just get through it.”

There were plenty of reasons to wonder if the Phillies (40-44) would see their way to this win. They were by no means flawless, from Domonic Brown getting thrown out at third trying to get an extra base out of a fielding error, to Delmon Young dropping a routine fly ball, to John Mayberry Jr. getting picked off of second base in the ninth inning, to some serious shakiness in the bullpen.

“We didn’t play what you’d call fundamentally (sound) baseball,” Manuel said. “That’s what we talk about all the time. That’s where the consistency comes in.

“It was a good game … but it was a tough one.”

The Phils had taken that 3-0 lead in the top of the sixth when Ryan Howard — two plate appearances after having a 12-pitch at-bat — broke his 0-for-22 skid with an RBI single off Pittsburgh starter Brandon Cumpton. Brown followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 2-0, then Delmon Young lined a double to left-center that had just enough roll in it for Howard to rumble home.

The game wasn’t close to over. The Pirates got one back in the bottom of the inning off Phils starter Jonathan Pettibone when Garrett Jones — who three innings earlier struck out with the bases loaded — hit a solo homer. That was all for the rookie, who left it to the bullpen to get the final 10 outs.

The Phillies’ beleaguered bullpen did have a little luck on its side.

The good fortune started in the seventh inning, when recently recalled right-hander Phillippe Aumont gave up a pair of hard-hit singles, a drive to the fence and threw a pitch about five feet high and 10 feet right of the plate … yet somehow got through the inning unscathed.

Much of the thanks for that goes to Brown, who fielded a leadoff hit toward the left-field corner by Mercer, spun and threw a bullet to second base that cut down the rookie shortstop as he foolishly tried to stretch it to a double.

Travis Snider followed with a hard single to right, but Gaby Sanchez’s drive to center field fell just shy of tying the game and into Ben Revere’s glove. Starling Marte’s liner to right was snared by Young to end the inning.

Then came the eighth, and with the Phils on the ropes, De Fratus got them off the hook and allowed Papelbon to get his 16th save with a smooth, 1-2-3 ninth.


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