Thanks to some late inning heroics from the offense, the Phillies took the first game of the series against the Atlanta Braves to support a strong outing from Cole Hamels, as the team gets back to the .500 mark on the season.
It wasn't the prettiest win in the world, but when you have an offense as disjointed and inconsistent as the Philadelphia Phillies, even the ugly ducklings come out looking like swans in the end.
From the get-go, the 4-2 victory over the Braves wasn't an easy one.
Hamels – who has been every bit the Ace so far in 2012, with a 2.73 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 26.1 innings (not to mention an N.L.-best strikeout to walk ratio) – didn't have his best stuff. Sure, he pitched well enough, allowing just two runs in six innings, while striking out six and walking one, but it took him 108 pitches to do so. He was missing – just barely, at times – and the Braves fouled off a ton of pitches, which prevented him from staying in any longer than the sixth inning.
His performance was backed by some early offense from Ty Wigginton, whose two-out, two-run single in the fourth would give the Phillies the early lead. It would be cut in half in the bottom of the frame, when Brian McCann hit a solo shot to right - his fourth of the year - to put the Braves on the board. They would tie the game in the bottom of the sixth, when Juan Francisco hit a bases loaded sacrifice fly to make it a two-all game.
While Hamels did his part, the Phillies got perhaps their biggest lift from John Mayberry, who started an eighth inning rally that would ultimately prove to be the difference in the ball game.
With one away, the struggling Mayberry (hitting .204 coming into this game) got just enough of a Jonny Venters sinker and dropped it down the right field line, and was able to scamper into second with his first hit in ages. After a bloop single off the bat of Jimmy Rollins advanced him to third, he was able to score on a wild pitch from Venters on a strike out to Placido Polanco.
The Phillies went on to add another in the inning on an RBI single from Hunter Pence, but it was Mayberry (and his legs) that made it all happen. Stretching that single into a double completely change the complexion of that inning and allowed them to take the lead when they otherwise would not have. He hasn't been doing much of anything this season, but sometimes, all it takes for a struggling hitter to get it going is a dose of confidence.
As far as the rest of the team, everyone showed up and did their duty. Antonio Bastardo and Chad Qualls tossed scoreless frames in the seventh and eighth, and Jonathan Papelbon pitched a perfect ninth to earn his 9th save of the year.
This was the eighth straight win for the Phillies over the Braves dating back to last year, when they swept the N.L. East rivals in the final two meetings of the season. This win puts the Phillies back on level playing ground for the season, at 12-12.
They'll send Halladay to the mound on Wednesday night, where he hopes to keep the team's good fortunes alive, as they look to get over the .500 mark for the first time since Opening Day.