Phillips thriving in cleanup role
Second baseman goes 3-for-4 with homer to stay hot
CINCINNATI -- Brandon Phillips has seemingly found a comfort zone in the cleanup spot, and you need to look no farther for proof than what he's done the past two days at Great American Ball Park.
Phillips went 3-for-4 with a two-run homer and a walk while batting fourth in the Reds' 6-3 win over the Brewers on Sunday afternoon. A day earlier, he tied a career-high with four hits and a walk in an 8-6 loss to Milwaukee during the first half of a day-night doubleheader.
Phillips has at least one hit in eight of his past nine games and in 13 of his past 15, and he's now batting .359 over 25 games in the cleanup spot this season.
"He's not missing pitches to hit, and he's fighting real hard with two strikes and keeping the at-bats going," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "It's not just that he's swinging the bat so well, but he's a guy that puts the ball in play at a high rate."
Phillips has done exactly that the past two days, albeit with an 0-for-4 during Saturday night's loss sandwiched in between, and has helped solidify the spot behind Joey Votto.
In the first game on Saturday, Votto and Phillips took 10 trips to the plate and reached safely in nine of them. On Sunday, the Reds' Nos. 3-5 hitters -- Votto, Phillips and Jay Bruce -- combined to go 7-for-11 with four walks, two homers and five RBIs.
"I think that game was all about the middle of their lineup, really. It's a formidable middle of the lineup," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "They caused us trouble every time around today, and we weren't able to get through them without any damage every time they got up there."
Even when Phillips hasn't been hitting the past few days, he's been getting on base. With a 5.6 percent walk rate for his career, Phillips is not exactly known for his patience -- but he's shown it when necessary lately.
"He's done a lot of good things," Price said. "He's picked up a few walks here lately, which isn't really his M.O., but he's been laying off those tough 3-2 pitches and finding a way on base."
"It's funny, because I think he's evolved a little bit as well," added Bruce. "He's a guy that can play baseball, whatever you need from him, he can step up. He's getting a little older now, but he's still hitting the ball all over the place, and that's a knack that he has, a knack to get hits when he needs it.
"The power isn't what it used to be, but he's still a great hitter and a big part of our lineup. He's having a really good year."