Granted, second place in baseball's worst division means only so much in the first week of June. The Phillies arrived there Wednesday and stayed Thursday by pounding last-place clubs Miami and Milwaukee. Nonetheless, they are primed for a significant run.
Milwaukee's pitching staff is in shambles after Wily Peralta was abused for five innings. The Brewers will use reliever Alfredo Figaro on Friday. He has made one start in 2013, which lasted five innings. Saturday is another bullpen game with lefthander Tom Gorzelanny starting. The most he has pitched in a game this year is two innings. He has started once since 2011.
That is why Peralta stumbled through five innings and 99 pitches Thursday. Five days earlier, Peralta silenced the Phillies for seven innings. He was awful from the beginning in his second attempt. The Phillies batted for 20 minutes in the first inning and twice scored, once on a sacrifice fly and the other time on a wild pitch.
That was enough for Tyler Cloyd, who engineered his second straight quality start against Milwaukee. Cloyd tossed 62/3 scoreless innings. His ERA is 3.68.
"He definitely made good pitches when he had to," Manuel said. "He took us to a good spot in the game. He did an outstanding job."
Peralta never imploded; a constant barrage sufficed. The Phillies also dinged him for runs in the second, third, and fifth innings.
Manuel shuffled his batting order and saw results. Michael Young led off for the first time in nine years. He started two innings with singles and scored a run in the first. John Mayberry Jr., hitting second, drove in another run on a second-inning double. Both players had three hits apiece atop the lineup.
The Phillies have won 18 of their last 20 games in which they scored four or more runs. They are 23-6 in such games this season. With consistency, the offense could propel them to contention. Their starting pitching is what has kept them afloat.
Cloyd is pitching for his job with each start. Veteran Carlos Zambrano will make his third minor-league start Friday at double-A Reading. He might be ready for a return to the majors after that. Zambrano could slot into Cloyd's next turn, Wednesday in Minnesota, because of an off day Monday. The Phillies must promote Zambrano to the majors by July 1 or he can request his release.
Milwaukee drove its share of balls to the warning track, but they landed as outs. Cloyd was not his sharpest; he walked five batters. He said he changed his pitch sequences between starts because he faced the same opponent.
"I mixed it up a lot," Cloyd said. "I threw a lot of different sequences and different pitches to hitters and really kept them off balance."
Cloyd's performance was good enough to merit another start. With 32 runs scored in their last five games, the Phillies pitchers can at last exhale. That breeds an unfamiliar energy for these Phillies.
Contact Matt Gelb at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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