Rollins' two homers help Phillies win fifth straight

Posted: July 14, 2014

THERE'S AN interesting dynamic inside the Phillies organization right now. The team is nine games under .500, with the fourth-worst run differential in the National League. For weeks now, the questions about the team's long-term direction have seemed more pressing than those involving the short term. Yet after last night's 6-2 dispatching of the Nationals, the Phillies are winners of five straight, tied for their longest streak of the season, and playing like the team they envisioned themselves to be at the start of the season.

"This is why I came here," starter A.J. Burnett said after the latest victory over a playoff contender was in the books, "for this kind of baseball. It's fun."

Burnett himself is a good example of the dichotomy of the Phillies as they stand on July 12. He is one of several veterans who figure to garner trade interest over the next few weeks, a righthander with World Series experience and an ERA that dropped to 3.83 after he held the Nationals to two runs in 7 2/3 innings. Yet when he talked about the Phillies' current winning streak, he sounded genuinely upbeat about the direction they are trending.

"You hear it all the time, and you hate to say it, but it's baseball," Burnett said. "Chase said it the other day, you keep coming in every day and you keep grinding, keep going, find a way to get it done. And that's what we're doing right now."

Does everyone in the clubhouse believe the Phillies can continue to be the team they've been over the last five games?

"I'd speak for everybody and say yeah," Burnett said, before breaking into a smile. "If not, they can come see me."

Which requires us to note that, a couple of days ago, closer Jonathan Papelbon acknowledged to reporters that he would welcome a trade to a contender, and acted incredulous that such a question needed to be asked about a player on a losing team. But credit veterans such as Burnett, Chase Utley, Marlon Byrd and Jimmy Rollins, who hit two home runs in last night's win, for the tact with which they've handled any talk of the trade deadline.

"If not," Burnett said, "you wouldn't have the kind of baseball you have right now. Guys would be down on themselves, worrying about where they're going to go, what's going to happen. That's not the case here. Guys are coming in, preparing to win a baseball game, and that's all you can do."

In a potentially terrible development for the Nationals, starter Jordan Zimmermann left the mound with two out in the fourth inning after throwing a 94-mph fastball to Domonic Brown. Zimmermann shook his right hand after releasing the ball, then motioned to the dugout for the trainers. He was replaced by Craig Stammen.

Brown's one-out double to right-center in the second inning gave the Phillies a 2-0 lead. In the third inning, Rollins followed a leadoff single by Grady Sizemore with his 10th home run of the season.

Zimmermann entered the night with excellent numbers: a 2.79 ERA, 7.9 K/9, 1.6 BB/9, 0.5 HR/9 in 109 2/3 innings over 18 starts. To put that in perspective, Cole Hamels has a 2.87 ERA, 9.1 K/9, 3.1 BB/9 and 0.6 HR/9 in 100 1/3 innings over 15 starts. Zimmermann finished seventh in NL Cy Young voting last year and will be part of the NL All-Star team for the second straight season.

The last time Burnett faced the Nationals, he allowed eight runs in six innings in an 8-4 loss at Nationals Park. In his seven starts since, he has held opponents to 17 earned runs in 52 innings (a 2.94 ERA).

Cameron Rupp extended the lead to 5-0 in the sixth with an RBI base hit that would have gone in the books as a two-run double if Brown had not been throw out at home.

Bryce Harper crushed an elevated fastball for a solo home run in the seventh inning to the put the Nationals on the scoreboard.

Rollins added his 11th home run, a solo shot off Stammen, in the seventh inning.

Burnett received a standing ovation when he left the mound with two men on base and two out in the eighth inning, giving way to hard-throwing rookie Ken Giles. Giles allowed an RBI double to Ryan Zimmerman, but got Harper to pop out to end the frame.

Burnett allowed nine baserunners, four via walk, but limited the damage to the Harper solo home run in the seventh and the run that scored on Zimmerman's double in the eighth.

The win improved the Phillies to 19-27 at Citizens Bank Park, the third-worst home record in baseball.


On Twitter: @ByDavidMurphy

Blog: ph.ly/HighCheese

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