Phillies' Win Streak at 6 After Pitching Silences Indians Again


Six wins in a row and nine wins in their last 10 games have helped the Phillies to a 15-10 record.

All of this while sporting a run differential of minus-16.

They have the second-lowest runs scored total in the National League with 82 runs after Sunday's 2-1 series-sweeping victory over the Cleveland Indians at Citizens Bank Park (see Instant Replay).

So, all things considered, it seems a little tough to think the Phillies will get this kind of success in the win column unless their offense heats up.

Just don't tell that to manager Pete Mackanin.

"I choose not to look at it that way," he said. "Those thoughts do creep in occasionally and we know we need a little more offense. But, pitching and defense wins games. That's the old adage. As long as we're in the game, we feel like we can win."

And, right now, who's to say otherwise?

The Phillies are winning games exactly like a team with a limited offense should, with strong starting pitching and an even better bullpen. The bullpen can probably be credited for the recent turnaround. Their 8-2 record in one-run games is the best in the majors.

Vince Velasquez was "effectively wild," Mackanin said, but he did his part in striking out six with four walks in six innings. He allowed just two hits, lowering his opponent's batting average to .164, second-lowest in the National League to Jake Arrieta of the Chicago Cubs.

And then he gave way to the biggest surprise of the Phillies season so far: the bullpen.

David Hernandez on Sunday had the "best fastball" catcher Cameron Rupp has seen all year from him. Hernandez pitched two scoreless innings, upping the bullpen's consecutive scoreless innings streak to 20 games, the longest in the majors this season.

Hector Neris, despite giving up a solo home run to Carlos Santana that snapped that streak in the ninth inning, picked up his first career save because Jeanmar Gomez - the usual closer, who was third in line when the season began - had pitched (successfully) in four of the last five games. Neris' ERA sits at 1.17.

Gomez hasn't blown a save in eight tries and David Hernandez, who was given one chance in the closer's role on Opening Day, has allowed runs just once since that blown save in Cincinnati, where he allowed three runs without recording an out.

Take that appearance out and Hernandez has a 1.62 ERA.

"They're pounding the strike zone," Mackanin said of the relievers. "They're attacking the hitters. They're not trying to be too fine. That's what I see. I think they were embarrassed as a group in those first three games. And I think after they just started going after hitters rather than trying to make perfect pitches."

"We kind of just challenged each other," Hernandez said. "We understand we have some good young starters and our offense isn't explosive by any means, so, for us to be successful we're going to have to be in close late games, and we understand that. It's a lot easier when you start throwing up zeroes and get the confidence going."

The Phillies, who had just four hits Sunday, have needed those zeroes and that confidence.

"Since the first two days of the season they've been lights out," Rupp said. "They've been outstanding for us. Our starters give us a chance to win, the bullpen shuts the door. We're not out-slugging anybody by any means. A lot of one-run games, two, three run games at the most. It shows how good they are."

And, for now, they're showing how good the Phillies are, or at least how good they can be.

Soon enough, they're going to need their offense to show it, too.

"For right now, I choose to believe we're as good as our record," Mackanin said.

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