Happ shines as Phillies rout Brewers
J.A. Happ might be the Philadelphia Phillies' answer to their late-inning bullpen woes when it comes time for the postseason.
Jimmy Rollins capped a six-run fifth inning with a three-run homer and Ryan Howard drove in two runs to help the Happ earn his 11th win, a 9-4 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday night.
"There's a chance he could wind up in the back end of the bullpen if we don't get something straightened out," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said of the rookie left-hander. "Like if (J.C.) Romero don't come back or something. I'm not saying we're going to do that, but we're going to talk about it, if we don't have no lefty."
Phillies closer Brad Lidge has blown a major league-leading 11 saves this season and Ryan Madson has been ineffective finishing games for the NL East leaders.
Happ (11-4) tied Randy Wells of the Chicago Cubs for the most victories by a rookie as he turned in a much better performance against Milwaukee than his previous start.
"He hides the ball real well," Brewers manager Ken Macha said. "We just couldn't get the key hit."
On Sept. 18 at Atlanta, Happ went just three innings in the shortest start of his career, leaving for precautionary reasons. He had strained his right oblique during batting practice Sept. 5 and missed two starts due to the injury.
Happ retired the first seven batters, the last five on strikeouts, before Jason Kendall hit a sinking liner in the third that left fielder Ben Francisco made a diving attempt to catch, but missed. The ball rolled to the wall as Kendall legged out his second triple of the season. One out later, Happ deflected Lopez's smash up the middle toward second where Chase Utley's low throw handcuffed Howard at first and squirted away as the run scored.
"Howard's played pretty good first base, but tonight it looked like a juggling act or something, a circus or something," Manuel said. "The ball was running up his arm, hitting him in the chest. That means Howard will play better tomorrow."
Pedro Feliz, who batted seventh, had three hits, scored twice and drove in a run for Philadelphia, who amassed 14 hits and reduced their magic number to clinch the NL East to four.
Howard came into the game an RBI behind Prince Fielder, who entered with 131, for the major league lead, but he drove in Utley with two outs in the first and added another in the eighth.
Fielder hit a run-scoring grounder in the bottom of the ninth to tie the sluggers at 132.
Milwaukee starter Jeff Suppan (7-11) immediately gave the run back on consecutive doubles by Francisco and Feliz to start the fourth.
Leading 2-1, the Phillies broke the game open with six runs in the fifth to chase Suppan.
Jayson Werth reached on shortstop Alcides Escobar's throwing error and then four consecutive singles produced three runs, including one by Happ for his first career RBI, who drove in his first run, just before Rollins hit his 20th of the season.
Suppan was booed as he walked off the field.
"When he's right and he's putting the ball where he wants to, he can be tough," Manuel said of Suppan. "We were fortunate that the bottom of the lineup hurt him. That was the thing - kind of did him in."
Paul Bako, who batted eighth, had two hits, scored a run and drove one in.
"We just couldn't stop the bleeding," Macha said of the Phillies' fifth. "Even the pitcher got a hit."
Suppan allowed eight runs - seven earned - and a season-high 12 hits over 4 1-3 innings.
"I just couldn't make a pitch in the fifth when I need to, and they put up a big number," Suppan said.
Happ left with an 8-2 lead and two outs in the sixth after the Brewers scored a run on consecutive doubles by Fielder and Casey McGehee. He allowed two runs on six hits in five 2-3 innings with two walks and seven strikeouts.
Happ leads all rookies in ERA (2.79), complete games (three), shutouts (two), strikeouts (112) and innings pitched (158 1-3). ... Phillies C Carlos Ruiz was not with the team after being sent home on Wednesday to undergo an MRI on his sprained left wrist. He had a cortisone shot on Thursday in Philadelphia and then left to join his teammates at Miller Park. He is not expected to play for a few days. ... Milwaukee (75-78) is out of the playoff race, but hopes to keep Ken Macha's streak of winning records alive. The Brewers' first-year manager, who led the Oakland Athletics for four years and two teams in the minors for four seasons, has never finished below .500.