Utility infielder Ramon Martinez hit his first career grand slam, leading the Phillies to a 12-4 win over the Braves on Wednesday night. The Phils moved into a tie with Florida for first place in the NL wild-card standings, and closed within five games of NL East-leading Atlanta.
These last four games, dating back to Sunday’s 11-1 win against Florida, have been almost magical in their perfection.
On the verge of being swept in a four-game series, the Braves look like they’ve just been socked in the mouth, getting crushed again last night 12-4. This one was so one-sided, the Phils ended the game by subbing out the regulars with Scranton/WB.
Before the game, the Braves must have rejoiced knowing the big first baseman who burned them the night before was sitting in the dugout, while dusty reserve infielder Ramon Martinez, who hadn’t homered coming into the game, got the nod instead.
How hot are the Phils? So hot, that Martinez put the game away in the third inning, taking left-hander Horacio Ramirez deep over the left-field wall for a grand slam. Martinez hadn’t started a game since Aug. 22 and only had 10 RBIs on the year.
Even unpopular moves, like sitting Howard against a left-hander, are smelling like roses for Charlie Manuel and his team. The crowd that booed Martinez’s start rewarded him with a standing 'O' after the slam. How's that for a team doing all the right things?
The lineup is firing on all cylinders top-to-bottom, and no single piston is running hotter than Jimmy Rollins.
J-Roll should earn NL player of the week for his outstanding work at the plate and on the base paths.
I’ve often thought that as Rollins goes, so goes the Phillies. His team couldn’t dream of production this good out of the leadoff hole. He went 3-5 last night, with two doubles and a stolen base, extending his hitting streak to 20 games. It’s the longest streak since Lenny Dykstra’s 23-gamer in 1990.
One of the biggest failures with the offense during July and August was that the fastest player on the team - Rollins – was near the bottom among the regulars in doubles. Right now, he’s sitting on nine already in September, three better than his next highest month.
We’re seeing the reason Charlie Manuel has been reluctant in removing him from the leadoff spot. Even though Bobby Abreu would be a consistent choice to leadoff with his combination of speed and on-base savvy, a lineup topped by Rollins – taking pitches, driving balls into the gap, not swinging off the heels – is just as good, if not better, because of his blazing speed.
In a strange way, I prefer doubles to home runs, especially leading off the game with one, as J-Roll did last night. Doubles never get the credit they should. Teams that hit lots of doubles – the Red Sox and Reds – also lead their leagues in runs.
Until lately, the Phils were dead last in the league in doubles and extra base hits. Those total has been soaring, and so has the Phillies offense.
Support the team
J-Roll and his team are worth cheering for. I’ll be down at the park tonight pulling for the knockout punch. But regardless of outcome, the Phils command the fans' respect for this grade-A September series against a chief adversary.
- Aaron Fultz pitched two more innings of shutout relief, dropping his ERA to 2.18. During the broadcast, Larry Andersen called him the unsung hero of the Phillies bullpen.
- Jason Michaels hit his fourth homer of the season. All of his homers have come off right-handers.
- David Bell went 3-5, raising his batting average against left-handers to .392.