TORONTO - The Phillies need Wilson Ramos in the lineup as much as possible in the season's final 32 games.
Everybody knows this, particularly his teammates. They watched Ramos go 4-for-5 with a double, home run and three RBIs in Sunday's 8-3 victory over the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. His opposite-field double in the second inning scored the Phillies' third run. His opposite-field two-run home run in the eighth inning handed the Phillies a six-run lead.
The victory kept the Phillies three games behind the first-place Braves in the National League East and two games behind the Brewers for the second NL Wild Card.
:: Players' Weekend presented by Valspar Stain ::
• Shop Phillies Players' Weekend gear
"Every time he swings he seems to barrel the ball," Rhys Hoskins said.
Every time Ramos plays he seems to make a difference. Ramos has played just six of 12 games for the Phillies since they activated him from the disabled list on Aug. 15 because of hamstring issues and a sore left wrist. In those six games he has hit .480 (12-for-25) with five doubles, one triple, one home run, eight RBIs and a 1.342 OPS. He has three or more hits in three of those games.
"I feel good," Ramos said. "I feel good with my approach at home plate. I feel like I'm doing my job."
Ramos spoke in front of his locker Sunday. Moments earlier, Phillies infielder Asdrubal Cabrera, who sat a few lockers away, tossed a foam roller to the side. It grazed the top of Ramos' head.
"Hey," Ramos said, "I don't want to go on the DL."
"If you go on the DL they'll release me," Cabrera said.
The teammates smiled and laughed, but Cabrera's joke held a kernel of truth. The Phillies' postseason fate might depend on how much Ramos plays down the stretch. Of course, the more Ramos plays the more susceptible he could be to a season-ending hamstring injury. He missed a month earlier this season with a strained left hamstring.
Lately, he has felt tightness in his right hamstring.
"It's very hard," Ramos said, "especially because I want to play. I want to play every day. I want to help my team make the playoffs. We're in a good spot right now to make the playoffs, but I understand if they want to give me two days per week off. That's good because they want me to rest a little bit and get better."
Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said he will continue to speak with Ramos about his health.
"We'd love to ride him," Kapler said. "We'd like to play him four times, five times a week, if possible. A lot of that depends on how well he's recovering so we don't get overzealous and put him at risk in any way. Kind of like we did at the very beginning of the season, we're balancing winning today's baseball game with the long-term health and well-being of our players. In this particular case with Ramos, it's balancing winning tomorrow with having him healthy through September and into October."
The Phillies said they carried a little extra energy to the ballpark Sunday. They knew they needed to win one game in Toronto. They know September is approaching, which means time is running out.
"I don't think our feeling has changed," Hoskins said. "September baseball is what we're looking at right now. We know we play the division a lot and if we play -- I think (Jacob Arrieta) said it a couple nights ago -- if we play better baseball, if we play good baseball, we're going to be right where we want to be the last 10 days of the season."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Franco pads the lead: Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco, who celebrated his 26th birthday Sunday, crushed a two-run home run to left field in the third inning to hand the Phillies a 5-0 lead. It was Franco's 22nd homer of the season. He is hitting .314 with 11 doubles, 13 home runs, 30 RBIs and a .924 OPS in 56 games since June 23.
Bullpen locks it down: The Phillies' bullpen blew a couple games on the six-game road trip through Washington and Toronto. But after Phillies right-hander Vince Velasquez allowed two runs in five innings, the Phillies' relievers allowed just four hits and one run the rest of the way.
"I've never lost confidence in our team," Velasquez said. "We have our ups and downs. That's what baseball is all about. We still have a whole month left, and I don't think we have any doubts of what we're capable of displaying. We still have a lot of time left and what we displayed today is pretty much what we're capable of in the next month."
Hector Neris is on a serious roll since the Phillies recalled him from Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He has struck out 15 of 24 batters faced in seven appearances, including three of four batters faced in the seventh inning. He has allowed just three hits and one walk in 6 2/3 scoreless innings in that stretch.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Hoskins and Carlos Santana hit back-to-back home runs in the first inning to give the Phillies a 2-0 lead. It is the third time this season the Phillies hit back-to-back homers. Santana and Franco did it May 4 at Nationals Park in Washington and Hoskins and Odubel Herrera did it against the Dodgers at Citizens Bank Park on July 23.
"The losses," Hoskins said, when asked what sparked the team's uptick in intensity Sunday. "It was a big game [during] a tough road trip. It was important to get a win before we get back home and hopefully start some momentum. Obviously, we play really well at home. To get a win the way that we did, we came out hot, we swung the bats well early, Vinnie was Vinnie. Vinnie gave us what we needed right there. He pitched with a lead really well. Then I think the runs at the end were the exclamation point to today and I think this road trip."
HE SAID IT
"What we found was a perfect opportunity to get Seranthony back in the game. Create some confidence for him. He went out there and dominated. He made us feel like he's ready to go back into a big spot." -- Kapler, on Seranthony Dominguez pitching a perfect ninth inning. Dominguez is 0-2 with a 10.80 ERA and three blown saves in his last eight appearances
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The Blue Jays lost a big challenge in the sixth inning, when Randal Grichuk tried to advance to third on a ball that bounced away from Ramos. The throw beat Grichuk to the bag, but Franco appeared to pull back the tag. The replay official, however, ruled that Franco tagged out Grichuk before he reached third base. Instead of runners at the corners and one out, the Blue Jays had a runner on first and two outs.
"A game changer, in my mind," Kapler said.
Phillies right-hander Zach Eflin (9-4, 3.93 ERA) faces Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg (6-7, 4.23 ERA) on Monday at 7:05 p.m. ET in the first game of a three-game series at Citizens Bank Park. Eflin allowed 10 hits and five runs in 3 1/3 innings last week against the Nationals in DC. He is 2-2 with a 5.59 ERA in his last seven starts.