Phillies fan 13 times but still beat Diamondbacks

Ryan Howard rips a double to center in the fourth inning for the Phillies. He was 1 for 4. CHRISTIAN PETERSEN / Getty Images
Ryan Howard rips a double to center in the fourth inning for the Phillies. He was 1 for 4. CHRISTIAN PETERSEN / Getty Images
Posted: April 29, 2014

PHOENIX - The 10th day of a 10-game Phillies road trip started with Sunday morning batting practice, an exercise reluctantly embraced by a bleary-eyed roster.

Scant offense was required for the sixth win, by 2-0 over Arizona, that capped a successful jaunt. The Phillies have scored six runs in A.J. Burnett's last three starts and have won all three.

The 37-year-old righthander who is hampered by a hernia provided enough energy for a happy cross-country Phillies flight. He teamed with Wil Nieves, a 36-year-old backup catcher, for another superb outing. The Phillies scored in the first inning, added a second run in the sixth with the aid of yet another Diamondbacks error, and rode Burnett.

"Hopefully," Nieves said, "he'll keep that hernia the whole year."

Burnett borrowed Nieves' hair paste and thanked the catcher. The two veterans have forged a strong bond, one that manager Ryne Sandberg may not break. They have combined for 15 scoreless innings when paired in 2014.

"He's fun to throw to," Burnett said. "He has that energy about him. It fires you up. It keeps you locked in."

"A.J. was really allowed to get in a rhythm and trust the pitch selection," Sandberg said. "It's a good combination right now."

Burnett dominated Arizona with his sweeping curveball. The Diamondbacks fanned eight times, six of which came on the curve. He has a 0.83 ERA in three starts since an ultrasound exam revealed Burnett's hernia.

Sandberg lifted Burnett after eight innings and 102 pitches. Burnett walked 14 batters in 16 innings over his first three starts. He walked no one Sunday. He has issued three walks in his last 212/3 innings. The hernia, he said, forced him to make important mechanical adjustments. The proof is in his improved command.

"He's a true pro," Chase Utley said. "Battling whatever he's dealing with and coming out and throwing up zeros, it's pretty special."

Arizona twice put a runner on third base but failed to score. After Burnett fanned Martin Prado and Paul Goldschmidt in the fourth, he plunked Miguel Montero on the back foot with a two-strike curveball. Aaron Hill singled to center, and Montero went from first to third on Ben Revere's arm. But Cody Ross hit a hard grounder right at Ryan Howard to end the threat.

Chris Owings, the Diamondbacks' No. 8 hitter, smashed a triple to right with one out in the fifth. Pitcher Brandon McCarthy hit one that Burnett stabbed, and Gerardo Parra flied out to left.

"A.J. just doesn't get flustered with any men on base," Sandberg said. "He just pitches, battles, and competes. Maybe takes it up a notch."

Jonathan Papelbon finished Burnett's gem with another scoreless ninth. The closer has not allowed a run in his last 10 innings.

The Phillies lost their first two games in Denver and could not muster one extra-base hit at spacious Coors Field. But six wins in the last eight games pushed the Phillies to 13-12 with a seven-game homestand to follow.

"We don't like it when we lose, and you can't really tell when we win," Burnett said. "It's even keel. It's good."

They struck out 13 times - McCarthy, Arizona's starter, accounted for a career-high 12 of them - but survived. Revere generated instant offense for the Phillies in the first. He singled to left and stole second base. It marked his ninth steal of the season. He is on pace for 58 steals. The last Phillies player to swipe 50 bases was Juan Samuel in 1985.

Good things happen for the Phillies when Revere reaches base atop the lineup because of his speed.

"That played big today," Sandberg said.

Two batters later, Utley flared one to left-center. Revere easily scored. Burnett made it stand.

"Good win," Burnett said. "Happy flight."


mgelb@phillynews.com

@magelb www.inquirer.com/

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