After struggling for weeks, the high-powered Philadelphia Phillies are finally swinging the bat with confidence.
They’ll now try to keep pace with the NL’s top offense.
Coming off another lopsided victory, the Phillies look to continue their surge Monday night when they open a three-game series against the NL Central-leading Cincinnati Reds.
With an 11-2 victory over Toronto on Sunday, Philadelphia (40-33) won for the eighth time in 11 games after losing 15 of its previous 21.
The Phillies’ normally prolific offense was virtually nonexistent during that awful stretch, plating 51 runs while batting .218, but appears to be back on track, scoring 75 runs while hitting .274 in the last 11.
“The weather is getting hot, this is hitting season and we’re starting to swing the bats better,” manager Charlie Manuel said.
Ryan Howard(notes) and Jayson Werth(notes) are leading this charge. The All-Star first baseman is batting .349 with five home runs and 12 RBIs in the last 11 games, while Werth is batting .324 with three homers and eight RBIs.
The two also battered Cincinnati pitching last year, as Howard had three home runs and five RBIs in seven games and Werth homered four times and drove in nine. The Phillies went 5-2 against the Reds in 2009, and have won 12 of 17 at Great American Ball Park.
Cincinnati, though, has been one of baseball’s biggest surprises this season.
The Reds (42-34) lead the league in runs (369) and slugging percentage (.440), and are one-half game ahead of St. Louis in the Central. This is the latest in a season that Cincinnati has been in first place since 1999.
Staying atop the division, however, won’t be easy.
Following this series, the Reds, whose five-game winning streak ended with Sunday’s 5-3 loss to Cleveland, open a season-high 11-game road trip that leads into the All-Star break.
“We can’t be upside down facing those Phillies,” manager Dusty Baker told the Reds’ official website. “You could get upside down, especially when we’re playing the Phillies, the Cubs, the Mets and then the Phillies again. You want your bullpen and your pitching staff, if anything, to be strong. Relatively strong.”
Cueto, who has yielded two runs or fewer in six of his last nine outings, gave up three hits in seven innings in Wednesday’s 3-0 win at Oakland.
The right-hander’s last start against the Phillies on July 6, wasn’t as smooth, though, as he was ripped for a career-worst nine runs in two-thirds of an inning in a 22-1 loss.
Philadelphia counters with Kyle Kendrick(notes), who allowed five runs and six hits in four innings of Wednesday’s 7-6 win over Cleveland, but didn’t get a decision. It was the second time in three starts the right-hander gave up at least five runs.
The Phillies hope Kendrick (4-2, 4.71) can bounce back on the road, as he’s 2-0 with a 0.90 ERA in his last three starts away from Philadelphia.
Kendrick has won all three career starts against the Reds despite a 6.61 ERA.