Pirates 8, Phillies 4
PITTSBURGH (AP)—Reggie Sanders won’t get to the World Series for a third straight season. That doesn’t mean he and the Pittsburgh Pirates don’t intend to play a role in determining who reaches the postseason.
Sanders hit a three-run homer during a three-hit night and the Pirates stalled the Philadelphia Phillies’ pursuit of the NL wild card, winning 8-4 Friday.
“We can be spoilers,” said Sanders, who has 20 career homers and 51 RBIs against the Phillies. “We’re not playing for anything, but we’re trying to finish strong and make it tough on the contending teams. There’s no pressure on us, but there is on them.”
Jim Thome became only the fifth player in Phillies’ history and the first since Mike Schmidt in 1983 to hit 40 homers in a season, but the Phillies dropped their third in five games. They fell 1 1/2 games behind Florida in the wild-card race when the Marlins beat the Braves 5-4.
Jose Hernandez stopped an 0-for-26 September skid with a two-run, pinch-hit single, and Abraham Nunez added a solo shot to support Kip Wells’ fourth straight strong start. The Pirates won for only the fourth time in 11 games, but are 5-2 against the Phillies and Marlins since Aug 26.
Sanders, who scored three runs, hit his 31st homer in the bottom of the seventh inning off Jose Mesa, his ninth hit in 15 at-bats. He reached the World Series last year with San Francisco and in 2001 with Arizona.
“He’s got a lot of hits off a lot of people,” Phillies manager Larry Bowa said. “He’s been doing it for years.”
Wells (8-8) gave up Mike Lieberthal’s double and Tomas Perez’s run-scoring single in the second, then limited the Phillies to only two more hits after that. The right-hander has won three of his last four starts, yielding five earned runs in 27 2-3 innings—a 1.63 ERA. Before that, he went 0-3 in his previous four starts.
Wells gave up two runs—one earned—and four hits while striking out seven and walking two.
“I think the light is finally coming on with him,” manager Lloyd McClendon said.
Wells was lifted with the Pirates leading 5-1 and the bases loaded in the seventh. Mike Gonzalez walked pinch-hitter Jason Michaels to force in a run, but Mark Corey got Marlon Byrd on a soft fly ball on a 3-1 pitch.
Wells’ last three wins have come against wild-card contenders, including two against the Marlins.
“It’s fun to know these games can have an effect on what will happen,” Wells said. “If we can throw a wrench into it, that’s our job. We’ll give them a fight and see what happens.”
The Phillies were 52-14 when scoring first, but the Pirates tied it at 1 against Amaury Telemaco (1-3) in the second on Sanders’ single, a wild pitch and a pair of groundouts.
Nunez hit his fourth homer and second in three games leading off the fourth against Telemaco, winless in five starts since beating the Cardinals on Aug. 17. He allowed seven hits and five runs, four earned, in 5 1-3 innings.
Wells helped himself with a run-scoring grounder in the fifth following Rob Mackowiak’s double. Telemaco was lifted after Sanders singled, Matt Stairs doubled and Craig Wilson was intentionally walked in the sixth. Hernandez then singled off reliever Valerio De Los Santos for his first hit since Aug. 31.
“I was looking for a strikeout there,” Bowa said. “He was leading the league in strikeouts, so the odds were in our favor.”
Thome’s drive into the right-field seats off Corey in the eighth came with the Pirates leading 8-2.
The cross-state teams played for the first time since April 6. Since then, the Pirates have traded seven players who were on their 25-man roster that day,released two and put two on the 60-day disabled list.
Wells has allowed 22 homers, but only one in his last four starts. … The Phillies missed a chance to go 16 games over .500 for the first time since June 2, 2001. They had won five of their last seven on the road. … Wells’ five RBIs lead all Pirates pitchers. … The Pirates are 3-1 against the Phillies. … Thome struck out once and now leads Hernandez 165-164 instrikeouts. They are the two NL leaders.