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Phils Take Fourth Straight, Down Cardinals

The Philadelphia Phillies have been marred with inconsistency for nearly all of 2014. They have hit well at times, and other times they haven’t hit at all (literally). Their starting pitching has been respectable, though more improved lately. A potential sore spot on this squad coming into 2014 was the bullpen, but the last two months the bullpen has been this team’s strong suit.

The Phillies came into tonight’s game in St. Louis winners of three straight, coming off a sweep of the Braves in Atlanta. This week’s stretch of seven games presented a good measuring stick. This stretch would seem to indicate whether or not this team has a chance to seriously contend for the National League East, as they sat just 4.5 games behind the Nationals for first place in a very weak division.

The Phillies had not experienced  a four game winning streak all year until tonight.

Role players like John Mayberry, Jr. and Reid Brignac have contributed a lot to the team’s recent success. Brignac was called up when third baseman Cody Asche got hurt, and he has earned more and more playing time. He’s provided late game heroics, with two walkoff hits and a few go ahead RBIs late in games. He’s a scrapper not unlike Chase Utley. All out, all the time.

Mayberry has provided the Phillies with some pop from the right side, both off the bench and in the starting lineup. In his last 10 games, Mayberry is hitting .263 with six runs batted in and a home run.

Both Mayberry and Brignac started tonight as the Phillies embarked on a four game series against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Brignac, unfortunately, would leave the game in the fifth inning. He hit a liner to first that Matt Adams snared, and flipped to Shelby Miller covering first. Miller and Brignac reached first at the same time, and collided awkwardly with Brignac turning his ankle. He would walk off on his own power, able to put wait on his ankle. He was replaced at third by Cesar Hernandez.

Rookie David Buchanan made the start for the Phillies, and he turned in his best start yet. Buchanan held the Cardinals scoreless for seven innings. He worked into the eighth inning before allowing a run with two outs. He worked 7.2 innings, allowing the one run on four hits and a walk.

The Phillies took the lead in the fourth inning, continuing their hot hitting. Carlos Ruiz led off with a double, followed by a single from Chase Utley. That brought the sizzling Ryan Howard to the plate, and he singled to right to bring Chooch home. Utley reached third on the play, and he would score on a sacrifice fly from Domonic Brown to make it 2-0.

The Phils tacked on two more in the sixth when Utley reached with a one out single. Howard then went the opposite way on a fly ball that bounced off the top of the wall and left the yard. It was Howard’s 14th home run of the year, and pushed his RBI total to 50. It was also Howard’s seventh home run to the opposite field, a great sign for a guy who seemed lost at the plate earlier this year.

Jake Diekman relieved Buchanan in the eighth and recorded the final out to preserve the 4-1 lead. Diekman and Jonathan Papelbon have been instrumental in the team’s recent success, being all but lights out in the later innings. Papelbon’s earned run average is down to an impressive 1.59, and he’s now 17-19 in save chances.

The Phillies seek their fifth straight win tomorrow night when A.J. Burnett takes the mound, opposed by Jaime Garcia for St. Louis. First pitch slated for 8:15.

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