Phillies 8, Pirates 3

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PHILADELPHIA (AP)—Charlie Manuel was fired once before at the All-Star break in his first managerial stint with Cleveland. He’d like to believe he can safely pack his bags after this break when Philadelphia travels to San Francisco later this week.

Manuel can handle the rumors about his shaky job status. It’s the way others handle the speculation that has him on edge.

“People look at you like you have cancer,” Manuel said. “They act like they don’t know what to say to you.”

He won’t mind the concerned looks if he can keep his job.

Cole Hamels pitched five solid innings to win for the first time in over a month, and the Philadelphia Phillies took their first series in that same span, beating the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-3 Sunday.

General manager Pat Gillick hasn’t indicated that Manuel’s job is in jeopardy, but the Phillies have sorely underachieved after finishing only one game behind National League wild-card winner Houston last season. Manuel said the rumors have affected his team’s performance.

“If I lose games for the Phillies, then I’ve got to go,” he said.

Nearly 90 minutes after the extended press conference ended, Manuel called a Phillies spokesman to relay a message to the media that he did not believe he was going to be fired.

Manuel was fired at the 2002 break in the final year of his contract with the Indians over a contract dispute. Manuel said he learned his lesson with the Indians about going public with his unhappiness over a team’s direction and wouldn’t gripe about the Phillies’ talent level.

“When I was in Cleveland, I kind of fired myself,” he said. “I got blamed for a lot of things. They act like I walked in and asked for a contract and asked for more money and I never did. … Once I got let go, everything was my fault, everything fell on me. I felt that kind of hurt who I was in baseball. I never will quit. I’ll come to work every day and do the best I possibly can.”

Expected to be the next Philly Phenom, Hamels (2-4) has been more of a Philly Flop since he was called up in early May. The left-hander hadn’t won since June 6 against Arizona in a victory that clinched a series win against the Diamondbacks.

He lost his next four starts and had a no-decision in his last outing as the Phillies tumbled under .500 and out of the NL East race. The Phillies had lost eight straight series and won their first home series since May 29-31 against Washington.

“We finally won a series if that means anything,” Manuel said. “We’ve got to play a lot better baseball.”

Bobby Abreu had three hits and reached base for the 34th straight game, and Chris Coste continued his hot hitting with two RBIs for the Phillies.

Joe Randa drove in two runs for the Pirates, who lost the final two games of the three-game set to drop their eighth straight series.

Hamels was considered the organization’s top pitching prospect and went 3-1 with 65 strikeouts and a 1.04 ERA in seven minor league starts this year. After striking out seven in five shutout innings in his major league debut, the former first-round pick was a big disappointment, going 0-4 with a 7.57 ERA in his last five starts.

But he survived an early 2-0 hole against Pittsburgh and the Phillies gave him the timely run support he needed to head into the All-Star break with a bit of a confidence boost.

Ryan Franklin tossed two shutout innings and two other relievers combined to nudge Philadelphia’s record to 40-47 at the break.

“No team will ever meet expectations,” shortstop Jimmy Rollins said.

A day after he drove in a career-high three runs, Coste put the Phillies ahead 4-3 in the fifth inning with an RBI single off Pirates starter Zach Duke (5-8). David Bell followed with a sacrifice fly. Coste added another run-scoring single in the sixth.

Those fifth-inning runs made a winner out of Hamels, who allowed three runs, six hits and struck out seven. The Pirates touched Hamels for two runs in the first on All-Star game starter Jason Bay’s sacrifice fly and Randa’s RBI single.

The Phillies tied it in their half of the inning, scoring two unearned runs off Duke. Jimmy Rollins reached to open the inning on a two-base error after the ball bounced off Randa’s glove. Chase Utley extended his hitting streak to 15 games with a double off the right-field scoreboard and he scored the tying run on a fielder’s choice.

Aaron Rowand added an RBI double in the third and Pat Burrell had an RBI double in the sixth.

Duke allowed 10 hits and seven runs (five earned) in 5 1-3 innings. Duke hasn’t won since June 14.

“We gave away too many opportunities for them to score runs today,” Pirates manager Jim Tracy said.


RHP Brett Myers, who took a leave of absence after his arrest on charges that he hit his wife in the face, will rejoin the Phillies on Friday. A decision about his return to the rotation will be made at a later date. … The Pirates last won a series June 8-11 against San Francisco. … Pirates LHP John Grabow was not available after suffering tightness in his left groin. … The Phillies had lost four straight home series. … The Phillies have allowed 25 first-inning runs in their last 24 games.

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