PHILADELPHIA (AP)—One of Philadelphia’s most baffling second-half problems has been solved: Bobby Abreu really can hit home runs in games, not just meaningless exhibitions.
“I really was relieved,” said Abreu, who went 2-for-4.
Abreu was mired in a monthlong slump, hitting just .217 since winning the Home Run Derby with a record-setting performance during the All-Star break in Detroit. Abreu and manager Charlie Manuel consistently denied the 41-homer exhibition display affected the slugger’s swing. But the waist-up cardboard cutout of a smiling Abreu holding the derby trophy over his head that was in his locker this week was going deep as often as the real person.
“It’s not because of the Home Run Derby,” Abreu reiterated. “I’ve been pulling the ball too much. I’ve been too aggressive at the plate. I’ve been swinging at a lot of bad pitches.”
Abreu’s first-inning grand slam off Mark Prior (7-4) was his 19th homer of the year and first since another grand slam against Pittsburgh on July 4.
“It shows he stayed on the ball and got through it. That’s a good sign,” Manuel said.
The slam helped the Phillies win the final two games of the three-game series and remain in the chase for the NL wild-card lead.
Brett Myers (10-5) won his third straight start and fourth consecutive decision, getting through 6 1-3 decent innings on a steamy, sticky afternoon. He reached double digits in victories for the third season in a row and is just one win shy of last year’s total.
Billy Wagner pitched a perfect ninth for his 25th save.
Prior ran into trouble in a hurry in the first, allowing two hits and a walk to open the game. Then Abreu—whose average dipped from .307 on July 14 to .291 entering Thursday—hit a drive that just cleared the 398-foot sign on the bullpen fence.
“I just wanted to hit the ball in the air and keep the rally going,” he said.
“It’s good to see that we kept adding on and kept padding the lead even after I gave up a couple of runs,” Myers said. “We came right back.”
Myers allowed 10 hits, four runs and struck out four.
Utley’s 16th homer in the fifth made it 6-4. That was it for Prior, who allowed six hits, six runs and struck out seven in 4 1-3 innings.
“He threw a lot of pitches early and didn’t have his location,” Cubs manager Dusty Baker said.
The Cubs have lost five of seven and head to New York for a three-game series with the Mets. They hope the return of shortstop Nomar Garciaparra and pitchers Kerry Wood and Scott Williamson this weekend will help them make a dent in the wild-card race.
“I’m hoping Nomar, Williamson and Wood will give us a charge,” Baker said. “Nomar should certainly help the offense.”
Garciaparra is set to come off the disabled list Friday and start for the first time since he injured his groin in late April. Garciaparra will probably start Friday and Sunday against the Mets. … While Abreu’s homerless streak ended, Burrell’s reached 15 games. 1B Ryan Howard has gone 11 straight games without one. … Abreu’s grand slam was the fifth of his career. … The Cubs failed to homer in the series, marking only the second time in the two-year history of the park that an opponent has not homered in a series.