A Phils’ Best Friend – Phillies go west to top Padres 3-0

By STEVE WILDMAN
Senior Baseball Insider – swildman@highhopesblog.com
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Ben Francisco celebrates in the dug out after his solo home run in the 2nd on Thursday night (Courtesy AP)

For the past few seasons, it’s seemed that whenever the Phillies needed a jolt of confidence after a rough stretch, a well-placed trip out west was just was the doctor ordered.  In fact, the Phils’ record versus the National League West Division stands at 62-25 over the past three seasons.  So it may be safe to say that after losing their first series of the season to the Brewers earlier in the week, the Phillies were happy to see a four-game series at the San Diego Padres’ Petco Park.  The Phillies have won eight straight at Petco, including  a four game sweep late in the 2010 season after being swept at home by the Houston Astros.

Roy Oswalt (3-0) had the honor of throwing the first game during the road trip, his first start after ‘tweaking’ his back during his last outing.  He didn’t show any signs of injury, however, throwing six strong innings of one-hit, shutout baseball.  The only hit allowed by Oswalt was an opposite field bloop single to right by right fielder Chris Denorfia in the bottom of the fifth inning.  With his pitch count well over 100 after six innings, David Herndon came in to relieve Oswalt after the sixth inning.  Herndon, naturally, pitched a shaky seventh inning for the Phillies, eventually being relieved by Antonio Bastardo after putting runners on at first and second base with two outs.  Bastardo walked pinch hitter Will Venable to load the bases, but was able to get Alberto Gonzalez to fly out to right, preserving the Phillies 3-0 lead going into the 8th.  Jose Contrares closed the door in the ninth, his fifth save in five opportunities this season.

Offensively, it was nice to see the Phils’ hit two more homers on Thursday after they hit two on Wednesday afternoon’s game versus the Brewers.  On Thursday, it was Ben Francisco and Brian Schneider’s turn to provide some sparks to an offense that has cooled down significantly since the first two weeks of the year.  Both of their homers were solo shots, and both came in the top of the 2nd inning off of Padres’ starter Mat Latos (0-3).  The Phillies added another run in top of the third, after Francisco hit a baes-loaded fly ball to right field that Denorfia dropped for an error.

Despite the two home runs, the Phillies only managed seven hits for the game, and only four off of Latos who struggled all night and left after 4.1 innings.  Ryan Howard, who began the year on fire, finished the game 0-5 with four strikeouts.  If this lineup has the ability to get back to what it was earlier in the season, Howard has to start seeing the ball as he was in early April.  If not, scoring 3-4 runs a game may be what Phillies’ fans need to get used to for the rest of the year.  Which, by the way, isn’t the end of the world considering their starting staff.

Cole Hamels (1-1) will look to keep the streak alive against the Padres’ Clayton Richard (1-0) on Friday night at Petco.

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