Just when the Philadelphia Phillies’ season seemed to be slipping away, they came up with a breakthrough performance offensively and beat the majors’ ERA leader.
"That will go a long way going into (Saturday) with momentum with a lot of guys," manager Ryne Sandberg said.
Knocking around a pitcher who dominated them a few weeks ago could provide another boost.
As bad as their offense has been, the Phillies have ripped apart the Cincinnati Reds staff since Alfredo Simon shut them down and they’ll get another crack at him Saturday with renewed confidence.
That’s because Philadelphia just defeated Reds ace Johnny Cueto, who entered Friday with a major league-best 1.68 ERA but was tagged for four runs and six hits in a season-low five innings. The Phillies won 8-0 to halt a season-worst six-game losing streak, during which they totaled 15 runs.
"That’s what good ballclubs do," said Domonic Brown, who had three RBIs. "They do things like that. They pick each other up. I think we’re growing every day."
Chase Utley was in a 5-for-31 slump before collecting three hits, and Jimmy Rollins hit .152 without an RBI in a 10-game span before homering off Cueto for his 2,228th hit – six shy of Mike Schmidt’s team record. After losing at Washington the previous day, Rollins said the season was "getting out of control now," with his team an NL-worst 9-20 since May 5.
Philadelphia (25-34) was shut out seven times in that span, including May 16 when Simon worked 7 2-3 innings and struck out eight in a 3-0 victory. The Phillies won the next two games of that series by a 20-4 score and have totaled 33 hits in the teams’ last three games, including 11 on Friday.
Simon (7-3, 3.03 ERA) has given up three runs or fewer in nine of 11 starts and has yet to allow one after the fourth inning. He gave up three in the fourth Sunday but otherwise shut down Arizona for 6 1-3 innings in a 4-3 victory, the converted reliever’s third in four starts.
"He seemed to be more comfortable in those situations out of the ‘pen where he could start his own inning and not come into the fire," manager Bryan Price told the Reds’ official website. "And now, when he’s in the fire sometimes, it’s when he’s at his best."
Cincinnati’s offense is rarely at its best when Simon starts, averaging 2.9 runs.
It’s struggled badly during the current three-game losing streak, totaling 15 hits and three runs – none in the past 17 innings.
Price is particularly perturbed by the Reds (27-32) having only 11 come-from-behind wins.
"The dynamic of our team is we don’t find a way to get back into games," Price said. "With the talent we have, I’m stupefied at how rarely we come back from deficits."
Brayan Pena is in a career-worst 0-for-17 slump, and slugger Jay Bruce is batting .203 without a homer in 25 straight games.
The Reds hope to get untracked offensively against Roberto Hernandez (2-3, 4.03), who is 0-1 in six games against Cincinnati despite a 1.96 ERA.
The right-hander’s 2.95 run support average is among the NL’s lowest, including five runs over his last five starts. He had a 1.85 ERA in the first four of those games but struggled Monday, giving up five runs in 5 1-3 innings of an 11-2 loss to the Mets.
Philadelphia’s Jonathan Papelbon, who worked a perfect ninth inning Friday, remains one save shy of becoming the 26th pitcher with 300.