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Asche helps ignite offense, but Phillies fall

Third baseman goes 4-for-4 with grand slam amid extra-inning defeat

PHILADELPHIA -- Cody Asche would have enjoyed the flight to Toronto so much more late Tuesday night if the Phillies had done just one more thing at Citizens Bank Park:


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PHILADELPHIA -- Cody Asche would have enjoyed the flight to Toronto so much more late Tuesday night if the Phillies had done just one more thing at Citizens Bank Park:


View Full Game Coverage

He went 4-for-4 with a double and a grand slam in a 6-5 loss to the Blue Jays in 10 innings, dropping the Phillies under the .500 mark, where they have spent most of the 2014 season. His grand slam tied the game in the sixth inning, but the Blue Jays scored a run against Antonio Bastardo in the 10th to win it.

"I look at this as a possible breakout game for Cody," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said.

If that is the case, it would ease the sting of some sloppy play early Tuesday. Asche's average bottomed out at .180 with a .534 on-base-plus-slugging percentage after making an out in the sixth inning April 24 at Dodger Stadium. The Phillies third basemen had the lowest OPS in baseball at that time as the No. 8 spot in the lineup had become a black hole.

But Asche's ninth-inning leadoff single that same night keyed a rally and a victory over the Dodgers. Asche has been hot since, although few had likely noticed until Tuesday. He is hitting .417 (10-for-24) with three doubles, two home runs and eight RBIs since that big hit in L.A. His .767 OPS is suddenly better than that of everyday players like Jimmy Rollins (.758), Ryan Howard (.746), Ben Revere (.604) and Domonic Brown (.579).

"You want to build on the positives, keep going forward," Asche said. "You don't want to go one step forward and two back. … That's the nature of this game. There's a lot of mental turmoil over a long season. The good ones weather the storms and do what they can do. That's what I'm trying to do."

Asche maybe even earned a start Wednesday against Blue Jays left-hander Mark Buehrle. Sandberg has started Asche just twice this season against left-handers and not once since April 4, when Asche faced Cubs left-hander Travis Wood.

Sandberg has used Jayson Nix (.494 OPS) or Freddy Galvis (.150 OPS) in every start against a lefty since.

"A lot of consideration," Sandberg said of starting Asche Wednesday. "Buehrle's not necessarily an overpowering type of guy, so a lot of consideration. … Yeah, give him some continued play here and let him build on this. That's why I'm talking about this being a breakout game to let him just settle down and relax. Having a game like this, coming up with those hits, that could go a long way with him."

Melky Cabrera started the 10th inning with a single and Jose Bautista followed, beating the defensive shift when he hit a ball in the vacated second baseman's area to put runners at the corners with no outs.

"We have Bautista as a dead pull hitter on the ground, and he hit one away from the defense," Sandberg said.

"That's winning baseball," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "They're shifting him over there. He's a home run threat, but he looked at, Melky's on, thing we have to do is advance that runner and turn it over to Eddie [Edwin Encarnacion], [Juan] Francisco or whoever's coming up, and that's winning baseball."

Two batters later, Francisco hit a fly ball to center field. Revere caught the ball but, not known for his arm strength, had no chance at Cabrera at the plate.

But the Phillies did not just lose the game there. They had played sloppy early. Marlon Byrd hit a leadoff double in the second, but Galvis hit a ball back to the pitcher. Both Byrd and Galvis were caught in rundowns.

Cole Hamels, who has a 7.02 ERA after three starts, allowed three runs in the fourth to make it 4-0, but the inning should have ended before a run scored. After Bautista started with a double, the Phillies employed a defensive shift to the left side of the infield for Encarnacion, who hit a ball between Galvis and second baseman Chase Utley for a single.

Sandberg called it a miscommunication. So whose ball is it?

"I don't know," Galvis said. "We've been talking about that situation. We have to practice that shift right there and try to call it early. It was a tough play. It was right in the middle."

Instead of a runner on second with one out, the Blue Jays had runners at the corners with no outs. Bautista scored on a fielder's choice from Francisco. Erik Kratz popped out to Galvis for the second out (or the third out if Galvis or Utley had made the earlier play), and Colby Rasmus followed with a two-run home run to make it 4-0.

"A lot of little things early on, which came back to haunt us," Sandberg said.

The Phillies' offense had been struggling until Ryan Howard drove in its first run in the sixth, which ended the team's scoreless streak at 21 innings. Asche's blast tied the game, but the Phillies couldn't get one more big hit to win it.

Maybe Asche gets a few more Wednesday. Maybe Tuesday really does get him going.

"If I'm in there, I'm in there," he said of Wednesday's lineup. "If not, I'll be on the bench, ready to go. That's just part of being part of a team."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for

Philadelphia Phillies, Cody Asche, Cole Hamels