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Jack McCaffery is the lead sports columnist for the Daily Times and He has spent several decades covering everything from the Phillies, Eagles, Flyers and Sixers, to college hoops, to high school sports in Delco.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A Phillies notebook

PHILADELPHIA --- The Phillies scored 12 runs Saturday, eight Sunday … and then scored a day off Monday to savor it all.
Are they back? Are Ryne Sandberg's innovative lineup configurations working?
Did it just take time to thrive with Jimmy Rollins leading off, the catcher hitting second, the centerfielder dumped in the eight-hole?
“I look at lineups,” Sandberg said. “I try to come up with a lineup that makes sense for that particular game. On the other note, trying something different is a good idea.”
Rollins, destined to rate as one of the greatest leadoff hitters in Phillies history, began the 8-3 victory over Cincinnati Sunday with a home run. Things clicked from there. Will Nieves, hitting in what has become Carlos Ruiz's No. 2 hole, followed with a home run, went 2-for-3 and increased his average to .333. John Mayberry, possibly in the process of wrangling the regular center field job from Ben Revere, had a double in No. 8 spot.
And Cody Asche went 2-for-4 to improve his average to .259, benefitting from what that lineup may be able to achieve.
“I think we've seen glimpses of it,” Asche said.
The Phillies have shown 19 glimpses of success, 22 of failure. That had them squished into last place in the N.L. East by the end of the weekend, yet still only 3.5 games from the top.
They will open a three-game series in Miami Tuesday night at 7:10. They will be back by the weekend to face the Dodgers in the opener of an 11-game homestand.
Sandberg, who accurately predicted a power outburst before the Cincinnati series then saw the Phillies hit six homers in two games, thinks the long-ball trend could continue.
“Potentially it can, with some warmer weather,” he said. “But we have potential up and down the lineup with guys hopefully getting hot and that continues.”
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The Phillies had their third off day in a week Monday, and were to host their annual Citizens Bank carnival to benefit the fight against ALS.
“Strange schedule,” Sandberg said after his teams outscored the Reds, 20-4, over two games. “Now I think we have a run of about 52 of 54, something like that. Right now, we are swinging the bats. It's been real choppy, a little hard to get into a rhythm. But bouncing back and winning this series, after the way the things were going there for a few days, was big for the guys.”
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Naturally, the Phillies' pitchers are relieved by the recent offensive improvement.
“It’s definitely easier to pitch with a lead,” Cliff Lee said. “It’s easier to attack the strike zone. You can use a little more of the plate and not worry too much if you give up a solo homer. It’s not going to hurt you as bad. Whether it’s a close game or a low-scoring game, every pitch is important. Not that it’s not with a lead, but there’s just definitely more room for error and you can get away with a couple more mistakes.”
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NOTES: In May, Asche is hitting .333 with three home runs and a .625 slugging percentage … The Phils are 6-2 in games started by Nieves … A.J. Burnett (2-3, 3.13 ERA) will face right-handed Anthony DeSclafani (1-0, 3.00) Tuesday. Kyle Kendrick (0-4, 3.96) and right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (2-2, 3.62) will throw Wednesday night at 7:10. The Marlins series concludes Thursday afternoon at 12:40 with Cole Hamels (1-2, 4.40) facing righty Henderson Alvarez (2-3, 3.62).  


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