That's where Herndon comes in.
When he stepped onto the mound in the top of the fourth inning, the second-year reliever had logged more career appearances in which he registered zero strikeouts than appearances in which he struck out at least one. But over the next three innings, he was nearly untouchable. Four of the 10 batters he faced went down swinging. Only one reached base. By the time the sixth inning was over, he had a career-high four strikeouts and was on his way to his first victory of the season.
"He did a good job," manager Charlie Manuel said of Herndon. "Three innings was big for him. When I put him out there, more than likely, I was thinking two."
The Diamondbacks scored their only run in the top of the eighth inning on a home run by Paul Goldschmidt, who launched a slider from Mike Stutes into the bushes in centerfield.
But Antonio Bastardo and Ryan Madson recorded the final six outs as the Phillies became the first team in the majors to reach 80 wins, giving them an 80-42 record that puts them on pace to finish with a franchise-record 106 victories.
The Phillies got most of their scoring out of the way before a heavy thunderstorm interrupted play and sent fans scrambling for cover in the concourses.
Manuel spent a majority of the time in his office watching the Giants and Braves square off, a game Atlanta won, 1-0, on a solo homer by Chipper Jones.
"I sat there and watched the rain for a little," Manuel said. "I watched a big part of the storm."
Red-hot outfielder John Mayberry Jr. was once again a star, connecting on his 10th home run of the season in the third inning, a two-run shot that gave the Phillies a 3-0 lead just before the rain began to fall.
In the second inning, Raul Ibanez reached base on a double then scored on Wilson Valdez' second RBI double in as many days.
In the fifth inning, Ibanez tallied his 65th RBI of the season on a double, which gave Herndon and the bullpen more than enough cushion to finish off a series victory over the surprising Diamondbacks, who maintained their 2 1/2-game lead in the NL West with the Giants' loss.
Herndon, who earned the victory, lowered his ERA to 3.79 with his three scoreless innings. Since May 1, the young righthander has allowed just six earned runs with 24 strikeouts and three walks in 29 2/3 innings pitched. Madson recorded his 23rd save in 24 chances, while Bastardo lowered his already ridiculous ERA to 1.35, striking out two of the three batters he faced.
"I'm a failed starter," said Herndon, who converted to the bullpen before the Phillies selected him in the Rule 5 draft prior to last season. "It's cool to throw multiple innings, just keep command of all of your pitches and stay down [in the zone]."
The Phillies begin a three-game series in Washington tonight, when righthander Roy Oswalt will square off against fellow veteran Livan Hernandez.
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