By Sam Bush
Thanks in part to a seven-run eighth inning and a strong start from rookie David Buchanan, the Phillies beat the Brewers on Thursday afternoon, 9-1, to sweep a four-game series at Miller Park.
It was the first time they swept a four-game set since Aug. 29-Sept. 1, 2011, when they swept the Reds at Great American Ball Park. Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Vance Worley had a combined 1.63 ERA (five earned runs in 27 2/3 innings) in that series.
This sweep featured Hamels, Kyle Kendrick, Roberto Hernandez and Buchanan, a little bit of a different look with a team with a much different future. They had a combined 3.29 ERA (10 earned runs in 27 1/3 innings).
“It’s crazy,” Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins said of the team’s play this week. “You can’t explain it. You just hope it’s good-crazy and not bad-crazy. We’ve been a lot of bad-crazy.”
A sweep against the National League Central-leading Brewers normally would be something to celebrate. But the Phillies finished 5-5 on a 10-game road trip through Miami, Pittsburgh and Milwaukee to return home to a 41-51 record with three games remaining before the All-Star break and 16 games remaining before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
They remain in last place in the NL East, 9 1/2 games out of first place.
“That’s something we can build on,” Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. “To see the offense come alive in a four-game series against good pitching, it’s a step in the right direction. These guys have good starting pitching and bullpen. That’s a good sign for the group.”
Of course, the Phillies finish the break with three games at home against the Nationals. Philadelphia is 18-27 at Citizens Bank Park.
“I don’t know what it is, honestly,” Rollins said about the team’s play at home. “But, good thing we have the All-Star break coming up so we can reverse that.”
Buchanan had one of his best starts of the season. He allowed four hits, one run, one walk and struck out five in seven innings. He allowed his only run in the sixth inning, when Carlos Gomezcrushed a 2-1 fastball to left field for a solo home run to hand the Brewers a 1-0 lead.
Buchanan is 5-5 with a 4.40 ERA in 10 starts since replacing injured left-hander Cliff Lee, who is expected to rejoin the rotation after the break. Sandberg said Buchanan’s future in the rotation will be decided at that point.
“When Cliff comes back, whatever happens, happens,” said Buchanan, who could be competing with Hernandez to keep a job in the rotation. “I’ve enjoyed my time here. It’s been a great experience for me. Being taught by these guys every day, day in and day out is huge. I’ve learned so much and I feel like I’ve definitely taken strides in my game.”