Phillies storm past weak Padres

Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard and right fielder Marlon Byrd. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)
Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard and right fielder Marlon Byrd. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)
Posted: June 12, 2014

The tarp covered the field at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday as a torrential rainstorm created a river in right field. Two Padres players - Everth Cabrera and Yasmani Grandal - emerged from a flooded dugout at Citizens Bank Park in spandex shorts. They turned the white cover into a giant Slip 'n Slide, belly-flopping to cheers from stadium employees.

There was no such joy for San Diego later.

The Phillies, after a day to relax and contemplate the next 101 games, dispatched one of baseball's worst lineups in 2 hours, 40 minutes. The 5-2 victory was a brief respite from the harsh reality of last place in the National League East.

"It was a good night in Philly," said A.J. Burnett, who contributed his best start in more than a month.

There could be a lineup with more failures when 2014 ends; San Diego is a special sort of inept. Burnett, who pitched to a 7.25 ERA in his previous six starts, breezed through the Padres batting order. San Diego boasted one hitter in the lineup with a batting average higher than .235.

Burnett threw 89 pitches in 71/3 innings before manager Ryne Sandberg came with an aggressive hook. Jake Diekman finished the eighth inning with two strikeouts on eight pitches. Six of them traveled 97 m.p.h. or faster, including one that registered 100 m.p.h. Sandberg called it "the best he's thrown all year."

Jonathan Papelbon converted his first save attempt in 17 days. He tossed a scoreless ninth - not without putting the tying runs on base - for his 300th career save. He's the 26th pitcher in baseball history to reach that plateau.

"It means a lot to me, more than what most people would probably think," Papelbon said. "I started this a long time ago and I was supposed to be a starter. [Red Sox general manager] Theo Epstein wanted to make me a starter and I told him I didn't want to be a starter. It's been a long journey since then."

Marlon Byrd provided the support. He blasted a three-run homer in the fourth and scorched a sacrifice fly to deep center in the sixth.

Padres righthander Ian Kennedy had retired the first nine batters.

Both Byrd and Burnett could entice a contender come July. Neither is young, and both are owed significant money. Byrd, 36, has 10 homers and a robust .477 slugging percentage. The righthanded batter smashed a 3-2 Kennedy heater to the opposite field. It landed in the first row.

Burnett walked 10 batters in his previous two starts but only two on Tuesday. He will need hernia surgery at the end of the season, and signed with the Phillies because they were close to his Maryland home. But he could be a trade commodity. His ERA is 4.24.

The success came with a caveat. San Diego has a .217 team batting average. Just two major-league teams - the 1968 Yankees and the 1972 Rangers - since 1914 have finished a season with a lower batting average. San Diego's .276 on-base percentage would be the lowest mark for any team since 1914. The 1965 Mets, who went 50-112, finished with a .277 OBP.

The Padres, as a team, have a .622 OPS. They are, essentially, a team of Paul Bakos.

"They swing," Burnett said. "They come out swinging. I feel like I got away with a lot tonight. I didn't have a real good hook. I got outs out of it, but not the kind of outs I want."

This is the chance Sandberg has long sought. If his team cannot muster a winning streak against San Diego and the Chicago Cubs, the next team at Citizens Bank Park, even the manager may have to admit the obvious.

The Phillies have played exactly 163 games since their last winning streak of more than three games. It feels longer.


mgelb@phillynews.com

@magelb www.inquirer.com/

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