Baseball / Sports

Phillies come alive, rout the Reds 8-0

CINCINNATI -- Domonic Brown lashed a first-pitch cutter Friday night to the left-field corner at Great American Ballpark. Ryan Howard and Marlon Byrd scampered home. Brown pointed to the Philadelphia Phillies dugout, which erupted in celebration.

For the first time in nine days, the Phillies held a lead of more than one run.

A six-game losing streak evaporated with an 8-0 victory over the Cincinnati Reds in a rare display of competent baseball. Manager Ryne Sandberg wondered before the game how his team would respond to gut-punching adversity. Three runs in the fourth inning provided breathing room for Cole Hamels.

"That's what we need," Sandberg said. "We need two or three guys to step up. We need a good tone set by the starting pitcher. We need run support. We need to play defense. We need to put it together. It's all about some guys stepping up."

One win, of course, does not cure the current malaise. The Phillies have lost 20 of their last 30 games. They occupy last place in the National League East, and could spend the remainder of the summer there, barring a turnaround.

It starts with nights like Friday, with teammates atoning for others' mistakes. The key rally happened after Chase Utley -- one of the game's best baserunners -- was picked off first base for the second out of the fourth. Howard, whose on-base percentage dipped below .300 in recent days, walked. Byrd was struck by a 94-mph fastball.

Brown lugged a .567 OPS into Friday. That ranked 164th among 168 qualified hitters. But Sandberg has extended great faith in his leftfielder. The Phillies' best chance is for Brown to swing his way out of the prolonged slump. He helped with one two-run swing.

John Mayberry Jr., in the lineup because of two home runs in the two previous days, smashed a single that skipped past Reds shortstop Zack Cozart. Brown hustled to score from second. It marked the Phillies' largest lead since May 28.

This all happened against Johnny Cueto, the majors' ERA leader at 1.68 before he encountered the Phillies. The opposition hit .151 against Cueto in his first 12 starts. He lasted five innings Friday, his shortest start in 2014.

Jimmy Rollins battered a first-pitch Cueto slider in the fifth for a solo homer that plopped just inside the right-field foul pole. Cueto had not permitted a homer since May 9. Rollins crept closer to Mike Schmidt's franchise hit mark; he is just seven shy of breaking the record. Cueto dodged two more singles in the fifth after Rollins' homer. His night ended there. The Phillies added four runs in the ninth for a rout.

Hamels pitched like a $144 million ace. The Phillies needed someone to stop the bleeding, and Hamels authored 72/3 shutout innings on 125 pitches. He has started 13 times against Cincinnati in his career. The Phillies have won every single time, including his major-league debut in 2006 and a division-series clincher in 2010.

"That's probably what he feeds off of," Sandberg said. "Positive thoughts and memories."

Cincinnati threatened in the seventh when Ryan Ludwick doubled. He moved to third on a groundout. Hamels bounced a curveball in the dirt. Ludwick sprinted for home, but Carlos Ruiz recovered and flipped to Hamels in time for a textbook tag.

Hamels threw at least 125 pitches for the third time this season. He reached that mark four times in his previous eight seasons. His ERA is 3.49.

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