Odubel Herrera says he is not trying to audition for a spot on the National League All-Star team, that his concern is helping the Phillies win ballgames.
On Friday night, Herrera did both. He homered to lead off the bottom of the first inning and drove home the Phillies’ final run with a two-out hit in the sixth. He also stole a base, scored two runs and made a splendid running catch in right-center. His efforts helped the Phillies beat the defending World Series champion Kansas City Royals, 4-3, on fireworks night at Citizens Bank Park and certainly enhanced his All-Star candidacy (see Instant Replay).
The Phillies’ fourth win in a row gave them a 36-45 record at the mathematical halfway point of the season.
Herrera’s big night raised his batting average to .306 and his on-base percentage to .396. He has nine homers, one more than he hit as a rookie last year, and 30 RBIs.
Somebody from this Phillies team will be named to the NL All-Star team when the announcement is made Tuesday night. Herrera is the team’s top candidate.
“I don’t have that on my mind,” the 24-year-old centerfielder said after the game. “I’d love to be part of it. But I’m just trying to help my team win.”
He’s done that a lot this season.
On Friday night he got some help from his friends.
Starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson allowed just one run over six innings. The right-hander has given up just two earned runs in 12 innings over his last two starts. Teams looking for a veteran arm to add to their rotation at the trade deadline will no doubt take notice.
Cody Asche continued to swing a hot bat – “This is the best I’ve ever seen him,” manager Pete Mackanin said – with an RBI double batting out of the No. 3 spot.
Maikel Franco also drove in a run with a nice piece of two-out hitting. He smacked a 3-2 fastball on the outer part of the plate to right field off Ian Kennedy in the third inning for his 42nd RBI.
Franco has made a lot of outs on two-strike pitches away in the zone. Not this time.
“Fastball away,” he said. “I had to make an adjustment and take what they give me. I put some good contact on it and got the RBI.”
Cameron Rupp had two doubles. Guess who leads the Phillies with 16 two-baggers? Yup. Rupp.
Rookie Edubray Ramos protected a three-run lead in the seventh. David Hernandez allowed two hits in the eighth, including a two-run homer, to make it a one-run game, but that did not faze never-nervous Jeanmar Gomez. He racked up his 22nd save. He could be a candidate for the All-Star team.
It was interesting that Mackanin did not use Hector Neris in the eighth inning, especially after an off day Thursday. But Neris pitched three days in row in Arizona prior to the off day and leads the majors with 42 appearances. Mackanin wanted to stay away from him.
“Neris is fine,” Mackanin said. “I want to make sure I can keep him healthy. Sometimes you’ve got to go to other people and they have to do the job.”
Neris has been wearing a compression sleeve on his right arm while sitting in the bullpen. Asked about it after the game, he said he wears it to keep his arm warm now that the weather has warmed and a jacket is not needed.
“Nothing is wrong,” he said.
Before embarking on their recent nine-game road trip, the Phillies had the worst team batting average in the majors at .225. Since then they have vaulted up four spots and are now hitting .239 as a team. They have reached double digits in hits in eight of their last 10 games.
“It was good to bring the sticks into our ballpark,” Mackanin said. “We swung them pretty well on the road.”
Friday night’s 12-hit effort snapped a seven-game home losing streak for the Phils. They have not lost eight straight at home since 1972.