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Hernandez providing surprising pop for Phillies

Second baseman started big eighth-inning rally to complete sweep of Braves
MLB.com @ToddZolecki

PHILADELPHIA -- Cesar Hernandez finished last season playing like one of the game's elite second basemen.

He has been even better this year.

View Full Game Coverage

PHILADELPHIA -- Cesar Hernandez finished last season playing like one of the game's elite second basemen.

He has been even better this year.

View Full Game Coverage

"Don't change anything," he said after Sunday afternoon's 5-2 victory over the Braves at Citizens Bank Park.

Hernandez ignited a big rally in the eighth inning that helped the Phillies sweep Atlanta and improve to 9-9. He hit a two-run home run to right-center field against Arodys Vizcaino to hand the Phillies a 3-1 lead. Aaron Altherr and Odubel Herrera each followed with solo homers, making it the first time the Phillies have hit back-to-back-to-back home runs since Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell did it June 13, 2008, in St. Louis.

Hernandez is hitting .338 (27-for-80) with four doubles, one triple, four home runs, 10 RBIs, 18 runs, three stolen bases and a .939 OPS in 19 games. He has the best OPS of any second baseman in the National League and ranks third among all second basemen.

Video: ATL@PHI: Hernandez launches two-run homer to right

Hernandez is playing like an All-Star.

"He's got a chance," Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco said. "If he keeps doing what he's doing he's definitely got a chance. He's showing power right now. He's got four homers already."

Four homers in 18 games? Hernandez hit six last season and just eight from 2013-16.

"I'm surprised," Hernandez said.

Hernandez hit .248 with six doubles, four triples, two home runs, 16 RBIs and a .630 OPS in 245 plate appearances through June 20 last season. He got benched in back-to-back games in Minnesota in June, then hit .327 with eight doubles, seven triples, four home runs, 23 RBIs and an .854 OPS in 377 plate appearances the rest of the way.

His continued excellence atop the Phillies' lineup has helped the offense, which is ninth in baseball in runs scored (85).

"I love watching Cesar hit the ball," Herrera said. "He has a beautiful swing, and he makes great contact on the ball. It's great to be behind him."

"I played with him in Williamsport in short-season [in 2010], and even then he could always hit," Altherr said.

Michael Saunders hit a pinch-hit double to start the eighth. Before Hernandez got to home plate, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin told him to try to hit the ball up the middle to advance Saunders, who represented the go-ahead run.

Hernandez instead hit a 2-1 slider a projected 362 feet, according to Statcast™.

"I said up the middle, but that's good right there, too," Mackanin said, upon greeting Hernandez in the dugout.

Mackanin smiled as he recalled the conversation.

"He did move the runner," he said. "He's an on-base guy and a leadoff hitter, and now I'm starting to think of him as a cleanup hitter as well."

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Philadelphia Phillies, Albert Abreu, Cesar Hernandez