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Hoskins homers as Phils seek sweep in DC

MLB.com

WASHINGTON -- Rhys Hoskins continued his tear by hitting a two-run home run in the third inning to open the scoring in the series finale between the Phillies and Nationals on Sunday night.

Anthony Rendon's leadoff homer started a Washington rally that tied the game at 2 in the fourth before a 38-minute rain delay paused the action at Nationals Park.

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WASHINGTON -- Rhys Hoskins continued his tear by hitting a two-run home run in the third inning to open the scoring in the series finale between the Phillies and Nationals on Sunday night.

Anthony Rendon's leadoff homer started a Washington rally that tied the game at 2 in the fourth before a 38-minute rain delay paused the action at Nationals Park.

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Since coming off the disabled list on June 9 (fractured jaw), Hoskins is hitting .327 (17-for-52) with four doubles, five home runs and 15 RBIs.

Hoskins' homer into the right-field stands came off a Jefry Rodriguez fastball and gave Philadelphia a 2-0 lead. Ten of Hoskins' 11 home runs this season have given the Phillies a lead, tying him with the D-backs' Paul Goldschmidt for the most go-ahead homers in the National League.

Kyle Melnick is a contributor to MLB.com based in Washington.

Philadelphia Phillies, Rhys Hoskins

Valentin's absence leaves Phils' infield thin

Club places 24-year-old on paternity leave, activates Cozens
MLB.com

WASHINGTON -- Shortly before Sunday's finale with the Nationals, the Phillies announced they placed Jesmuel Valentin on paternity leave, putting them short a solid backup infielder as they try to sweep their three-game series at Nationals Park. Philadelphia also reinstated outfielder Dylan Cozens from the disabled list.

The Phillies bench consists of Cozens, Mitch Walding, Aaron Altherr and Jorge Alfaro. Walding is the only infielder of that group, but the 25-year-old has played third base for the Phillies only once.

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WASHINGTON -- Shortly before Sunday's finale with the Nationals, the Phillies announced they placed Jesmuel Valentin on paternity leave, putting them short a solid backup infielder as they try to sweep their three-game series at Nationals Park. Philadelphia also reinstated outfielder Dylan Cozens from the disabled list.

The Phillies bench consists of Cozens, Mitch Walding, Aaron Altherr and Jorge Alfaro. Walding is the only infielder of that group, but the 25-year-old has played third base for the Phillies only once.

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If the Phillies need to substitute Scott Kingery at shortstop, manager Gabe Kapler said he may switch players around. He said Cesar Hernandez could move from second base to shortstop and Walding and Alfaro could substitute in at third base. Kapler's comfortable moving an array of players to second base.

Valentin has mainly played third base, serving as a replacement for J.P. Crawford, who's expected to miss three to five more weeks with a broken left hand. Maikel Franco replaced Valentin at third on Saturday and went 4-for-4 with two runs scored in the Phillies' 5-3 win.

Valentin is hitting .216 with 12 strikeouts and three walks this season.

Cozens had been on the DL since June 9 with a left quadriceps strain. The 24-year-old is 2-for-9 with a home run in five games with the Phillies. In 50 games with Triple-A Lehigh Valley, Cozens is hitting .226 with 10 home runs, 25 RBIs, 75 strikeouts and 25 walks.

Cozens provides the Phillies a left-handed power hitter off the bench. He'll complement Altherr, a righty with power. Altherr hit 19 home runs last season but has only six in 179 at-bats this year.

"We got another really capable defender in Cozens," Kapler said. "He's running the bases really well. He's feeling really healthy, so we feel good about deploying him anyway we need."

Injury update: Neshek
Pat Neshek pitched the seventh inning of Class A Advanced Clearwater's game on Saturday, retiring the side and striking out two batters in his first rehab appearance.

Kapler, who watched Neshek's outing on video, said Neshek will make one more rehab outing before the Phillies decide whether to reactivate him.

"Ball was moving all over the place," Kapler said. "Using a two-seamer up and in to lefties that he feels really good about. He came off the field feeling healthy 100 percent with his arm."

Neshek, who signed a two-year, $16 million contract with Philadelphia in December, hasn't played this season due to shoulder and forearm injuries. The right-hander recorded a 1.59 ERA with 69 strikeouts and six walks in 71 appearances between the Phillies and Rockies last year.

Neshek should help a bullpen that holds the fourth-highest ERA in the National League and has rotated closers.

Kyle Melnick is a contributor to MLB.com based in Washington.

Philadelphia Phillies, Dylan Cozens, Jesmuel Valentin

Phils win thanks to Franco's wild day on bases

Slugger goes 4-for-4, beats two throws at home plate
MLB.com

WASHINGTON -- Saturday for Maikel Franco -- and the Phillies -- was a tale of two slides.

The Phillies beat the Nationals, 5-3, Saturday afternoon, and while it continued to prove the youngsters from Philly can stand with the National League East's perennial best, it also spotlighted the continued development of the 25-year-old Franco, who finished the day going 4-for-4 along with key baserunning.

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WASHINGTON -- Saturday for Maikel Franco -- and the Phillies -- was a tale of two slides.

The Phillies beat the Nationals, 5-3, Saturday afternoon, and while it continued to prove the youngsters from Philly can stand with the National League East's perennial best, it also spotlighted the continued development of the 25-year-old Franco, who finished the day going 4-for-4 along with key baserunning.

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"I [felt] pretty good today," Franco said. "Like I said, I try to go out there and do everything I can for my team -- help my team to win and be able to do anything that I can do."

Franco's first slide at home tied the game at 2 in the second. His next slide at home gave the Phillies the lead in the seventh. It was encouraging for Franco -- and manager Gabe Kapler -- as both have been looking for the third basemen to more completely round out his game after being thrust into a larger role with J.P. Crawford injured.

Video: PHI@WSH: Nola drives in Franco with a single to right

Franco saw a chance to make an impact while on third base in the seventh inning. Pinch-hitter Jesmuel Valentin lined out to right, but Franco was able to slide in just in time before the throw from Adam Eaton -- the second time of the day Franco was able to beat Eaton's throw home. He gave his team the lead, later solidified by Carlos Santana's third home run in his past four games and an RBI single from Franco -- both off Kelvin Herrera -- in the eighth.

Video: PHI@WSH: Santana extends lead on opposite-field homer

Coming off his worst start of 2018, Aaron Nola's day began promisingly, but the Nats battled. The righty retired the first two Nationals he faced with just four pitches, but a two-out single from Anthony Rendon and a ground-rule double from Juan Soto brought up Daniel Murphy, who sent a 3-2 changeup up the middle to score both Rendon and Soto.

Despite the two runs, Nola settled back in, going six strong innings while only giving up two more hits on 84 total pitches. In the second inning, he helped make up what he lost in the first with an opposite-field RBI single, capping off a rally of four straight singles from the Phillies' offense. The bullpen allowed two hits -- one a homer to Rendon -- and Seranthony Dominguez shut the door for his fifth save of the year.

Video: PHI@WSH: Nola fans 5, picks up RBI single

Winners of four consecutive series -- three of which have come against teams above .500 -- Philadelphia sits at 41-33 on the season and 1 1/2 games behind the first-place Braves after Atlanta has lost three straight.

"It may change the external conversations," Kapler said of the success, "but certainly internally, we thought that, 'We went through this stretch and got beat up a little bit', or, 'We went through this stretch and came out in a really good spot'. We still are the same high quality team."

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Franco slips up:  Franco's two slides at home were sandwiched around a learning moment for him, also on a slide. A single up the middle in the fourth caused the Nationals' middle infielders into a near-collision, and as Franco tried to stretch his hit into a double amid the chaos, he overslid the bag and was tagged out by Murphy. Nick Williams moved to third, but it allowed the Nationals to intentionally walk Jorge Alfaro to bring up the pitcher's spot with two outs. Erick Fedde escaped the threat, though it could have potentially been a bases-loaded, one-out situation for the Phillies.

Video: PHI@WSH: Murphy tags out Franco trying to take second

"It's just a healthy reminder that he's 25," Kapler said of Franco. "There are going to be ebbs and flows. There are going to be ups and downs. We have to stay resilient as a support system. He has to stay resilient as an athlete. ... We put him in the best spots to succeed. I trust that when we do, he's going to come out swinging.

SOUND SMART
Franco's four hits Saturday matched his production from the 28 at-bats that preceded the day. He was 4-for-28 entering Saturday, and his last four-hit game came on July 14, 2017, against the Brewers.

Video: PHI@WSH: Franco picks up 4th hit, plates Kingery

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Franco's go-ahead slide in the seventh wasn't without controversy. Catcher Spencer Kieboom's tag hit Franco on the hip as the play was initially ruled safe. The Nationals challenged the play, and after a review, the call on the field stood, giving the Phillies the lead. 

Video: PHI@WSH: Franco scores on sac fly despite challenge

HE SAID IT
"We are playing really good right now. We have to stay positive and stay consistent and everybody does something to help the team. That's how you want to win the ballgames. We play with a lot of energy, we go out there and don't think about who's pitching, who's on the mound. We just go out there and show a lot of energy. -- Franco, on the Phillies' recent success

UP NEXT
The Phillies turn to Nick Pivetta Sunday night, looking for their first sweep at Nationals Park since 2016. Pivetta, who is coming off one of his strongest outings of the season, will be opposed by Nationals rookie Jefry Rodriguez. First pitch is slated for 8:05 ET.

Zachary Silver is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington.

Philadelphia Phillies, Maikel Franco

Slip in outfield doesn't stop Herrera from catch

Saturday afternoon featured a key NL East matchup, as the Phillies took on the Nationals in D.C. and beat them, 5-3. One of the reasons for the win was Odubel Herrera: The center fielder was hitless in four at-bats, but in the second inning, he made his presence felt with his glove ... albeit in a less-than-graceful manner.

Red-hot Herrera leads Phillies into second place

Outfielder finishes 4-for-5, homering in fifth straight game
Special to MLB.com

WASHINGTON -- As reporters gathered around Odubel Herrera in the visiting clubhouse at Nationals Park after the Phillies' 12-2 win over the Nationals on Friday night, Vince Velasquez jumped on a chair behind the media to gain a good view of Herrera.

"What are you doing?" Herrera asked the right-hander.

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WASHINGTON -- As reporters gathered around Odubel Herrera in the visiting clubhouse at Nationals Park after the Phillies' 12-2 win over the Nationals on Friday night, Vince Velasquez jumped on a chair behind the media to gain a good view of Herrera.

"What are you doing?" Herrera asked the right-hander.

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"I want to hear your interview," Velasquez responded with a smile before he listened to Herrera's first answer.

Herrera was the center of attention after he became just the sixth player in Phillies history to hit a home run in five straight games. The 26-year-old finished 4-for-5 to help Philadelphia move past Washington for second place in the National League East and for the second NL Wild Card. The Phils have won eight of their past 11 games.

"It's simply incredible what [Herrera] can do," Zach Eflin said. "The thing with Odubel is that he can shake off anything at any given time. He can look like he's struggling and next pitch he sends it 440 feet."

Video: PHI@WSH: Eflin fans Taylor swinging in the 4th inning

Herrera joined Rhys Hoskins (2017), Chase Utley (twice, in '08), Bobby Abreu ('05), Mike Schmidt ('79) and Dick Allen ('69) as the only players to homer in five consecutive games. But the Phillies rode one of the league's hottest offenses into their series against the Nationals, and Herrera wasn't the only player to continue performing well.

Cesar Hernandez, Carlos Santana, Nick Williams and Andrew Knapp also notched multiple hits. Since June 14, the Phillies are hitting .290.

Video: PHI@WSH: Knapp cranks a solo homer to right-center

While the Nationals entered this season with high expectations and star power, Philadelphia has showed it can compete with them behind Herrera, who's hitting .472 over his past eight games.

"At this point, I think in a lot of ways, we've proven ourselves," manager Gabe Kapler said. "We've gone toe-to-toe with some of the best teams in the league, and done a pretty good job. At some point, it stops being that we're trying to prove ourselves, and we're just competing with really good teams, and I think that's where we are."

Santana, who rebounded from hitting .153 in April, opened the scoring with a two-run single in the first inning. Eflin, who entered Friday with a 1.93 ERA in June, allowed his only two runs in the second inning, and the offense continued to support him as the right-hander claimed his fourth consecutive win.

Video: PHI@WSH: Santana lines a 2-run single to left field

Herrera knocked his two-run dinger in the third inning to give the Phillies a 4-2 lead. After Santana helped start another two-run rally in the fifth inning, the 32-year-old knocked a two-run homer in the sixth inning to push the Philadelphia lead to 8-2.

Philadelphia forced Tanner Roark to throw 113 pitches in 4 1/3 innings, and they'll face inexperienced pitchers the next two days in Erick Fedde and Jefry Rodriguez, who are filling in for injured starters.

The Phillies' bullpen -- a weakness coming in -- threw four scoreless innings, with two-time All-Star Pat Neshek nearing as he begins a rehab assignment Saturday. All four of the pitchers Philadelphia used weren't on its Opening Day roster.

"It's always satisfying to beat great teams like the Nationals," Herrera said through a translator. "That's what you play for."

Video: Odubel Herrera belts a homer in 5 straight games

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
The Nationals' best chance to regain momentum came in the fifth inning, when Bryce Harper and Trea Turner reached base with one out. Efflin escaped the frame, though, by forcing Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto to fly out, finishing his 97-pitch night.

"Those are situations I've been working on the past couple years, being able to put guys away when I need to," Efflin said. "Being able to do that and overcome that was huge. Looking forward to continuing that and getting deeper into games."

SOUND SMART
Santana continues to find ways to get on base. Along with his two hits, the first baseman also drew two walks. Since June 1, Joey Votto has drawn 19 walks, followed by Santana's 18 and Mike Trout's 17.

Video: PHI@WSH: Santana clubs a 2-run homer to right field

UP NEXT
Aaron Nola will try to recover from a rare poor start when he faces the Nationals at 4:05 p.m. ET Saturday at Nationals Park. Nola allowed four runs over 4 1/3 innings against the Brewers last Sunday, just the second time this season the right-hander has allowed four or more runs. Nola is 1-4 with a 4.50 ERA in 10 career starts against Washington, who will start fellow 25-year-old Fedde on Saturday.

Kyle Melnick is a contributor to MLB.com based in Washington.

Philadelphia Phillies, Odubel Herrera

Phillies Phestival backs fight against ALS

Nola, teammates, alumni create special day for fans, those battling disease
MLB.com

Lines of people serpentined through the seats of Citizens Bank Park on Thursday evening, while loyal fans waited for their turn for a one-on-one moment with the likes of Rhys Hoskins, Jorge Alfaro and several other former and current Phillies players.

The Phillies Phestival, though, was about much more than finally getting a favorite player's autograph.

Lines of people serpentined through the seats of Citizens Bank Park on Thursday evening, while loyal fans waited for their turn for a one-on-one moment with the likes of Rhys Hoskins, Jorge Alfaro and several other former and current Phillies players.

The Phillies Phestival, though, was about much more than finally getting a favorite player's autograph.

"As much money we can raise the better," said Phillies ace Aaron Nola.

Proceeds from the annual event benefit the ALS Association Greater Philadelphia Chapter, where the money will be used for patient services and research of the disease for which there is no known cause or cure. It's all part of the Phillies' effort to "#StrikeOutALS." Also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, ALS is a deadly neuromuscular disease that progressively deteriorates physical functions.

ALS is a cause that Nola is especially passionate about. His uncle Allen was diagnosed with ALS a few years back. And with the Phillies so involved in helping fight the disease, Nola has noticed something that defines most PALS (people with ALS).

"They're super positive and their attitude is really good," Nola said. "I think with a disease like ALS you have to have a good attitude. That's what they preach."

For Nola and his teammates, that can help them look at life in a different light.

"Sometimes we take life for granted," Nola said. "Coming over here and really seeing these PALS and walk around and communicate with them really puts life into perspective."

Christine Moretti, one of the PALS in attendance, was diagnosed with primary lateral sclerosis, a rare form of ALS, in 2016. Thursday marked her second time at the Phillies Phestival. Aside from the "oh my gosh" factor of Phillies players actually wanting to talk to her -- like when John Kruk hugged her son, Jeremy, last year after learning he was Jeremy's favorite player growing up -- she's loved interacting with other PALS.

At the close of Wednesday's festivities, Moretti and other PALS in attendance filled a room within the basement of Citizens Bank Park to mingle with each other and the current Phillies players. It didn't make for a bad photo opp, either.

"We're so joined together in this disease," Moretti said. "You look beyond it and you're just friends with everybody. We're all there for each other."

Earlier, fans attending the Phestival enjoyed autograph sessions throughout the ballpark. A silent auction offered a chance to take home tons of different baseball- and Phillies-themed items, like a bobblehead collection, game-worn memorabilia or even a seat from Citizens Bank Park. The "Every Roll's a Winner" dice game guaranteed every participant went home with a prize.

Near the left-field gate, significant others of Phillies players handed out grab bags -- Phestival-decorated backpacks filled with a mystery prize, such as a T-shirt or, for the lucky, a limited-edition Charlie Manuel bobblehead.

Kiyomi Locker, fiancee of Phillies reliever Yacksel Rios, was among those passing out the grab bags. As a native of the Philadelphia region, she has fond memories of attending the Phestival as a kid, such as taking a photo with Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt or finding a signed Cole Hamels jersey in a grab bag of her own.

Now on the other side of the event, she's realized what it's all about.

"This event is so important just because I think it brings awareness for Lou Gehrig's disease and just everything that these people go through," Locker said. "... I'm always amazed by how courageous and passionate [families affected by ALS] are for the cause and for taking care of the people who need help."

Joe Bloss is a reporter for MLB.com based in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia Phillies, Aaron Nola

The Phillies' most pressing question

MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

Shifting powers within the National League East have created a new dynamic as the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches, with more potential buyers than sellers dotting the landscape. The Braves, Nationals and Phillies all believe they have legitimate chances to make the postseason, while the Mets aren't quite counting themselves out yet, either.

Many general managers like to slice regular seasons into three segments, using the first to learn about their teams, the second to take action, and the third to let the chips fall where they may. But while each NL East team is well into Phase 2 of that plan, they all still have unanswered questions clouding their futures:

Shifting powers within the National League East have created a new dynamic as the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches, with more potential buyers than sellers dotting the landscape. The Braves, Nationals and Phillies all believe they have legitimate chances to make the postseason, while the Mets aren't quite counting themselves out yet, either.

Many general managers like to slice regular seasons into three segments, using the first to learn about their teams, the second to take action, and the third to let the chips fall where they may. But while each NL East team is well into Phase 2 of that plan, they all still have unanswered questions clouding their futures:

Video: Byrnes breaks down Braves, Freeman's MVP chances

BRAVES
The question: Can Atlanta keep this up?

This question is layered deeper than it might appear. Every year, a rebuilding team or two tends to rise to contention sooner than expected, as the Braves have done in shooting out to first place. If they play their cards right at the Deadline, Atlanta could add a reliever, a bench bat or even a starting pitcher if its budget allows. But the Braves won't likely address all of those areas, knowing they needs to maintain a strong farm system and a responsible budget to keep the window of contention open as long as possible.

How Atlanta performs over the next three to four weeks could have a major impact on what it does at the Deadline. A strong run could prompt more aggression from the Braves in trade talks. Less dynamic play might convince them to stay conservative, knowing that no matter what happens this year, they're a team with oodles of potential for 2019.

Video: MIA@BAL: Realmuto crushes a 2-run homer to center

MARLINS
The question: Which veterans will be on the move?

There's little doubt the Marlins will sell off pieces prior to the Trade Deadline. The only question is which ones?

Teams seeking catching help -- the Red Sox, Brewers and Angels spring to mind -- will surely ask about J.T. Realmuto, but there's doubt within the industry that Miami would deal him. When the Mets checked in earlier this year, they came away with the impression that the Marlins wanted to keep their standout catcher.

That could change as the deadline nears, but even if it doesn't, Miami has assets to spare. First baseman Justin Bour, second baseman Starlin Castro, starting pitcher Dan Straily and reliever Kyle Barraclough all could fetch interesting returns, considering they are under contractual control for multiple seasons. Like Realmuto, all of them have been involved in trade rumors in the past.

In any event, Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill is about to become a popular man.

Video: NYM@COL: Syndergaard discusses progress on his injury

METS
The question: When will the superstars return (and will it be too late)?

Yoenis Cespedes and Noah Syndergaard have combined to miss more than two months with injuries that the Mets once considered relatively minor -- a strained right hip flexor for Cespedes, a strained right index finger for Syndergaard. The team still doesn't have much of a timetable for either, complicating its attempt to push back into playoff contention. With Cespedes and Syndergaard active and healthy, the Mets believe they can make a late run at an NL Wild Card berth. Without them, the team might be inclined to look toward 2019.

Last summer, general manager Sandy Alderson provided a blueprint of what a yard sale could look like before (and after) July 31, dealing away Lucas Duda, Addison Reed, Jay Bruce, Neil Walker and Curtis Granderson for a cadre of high-upside relievers. This year's inventory of pending free agents is not quite so robust, with only Jeurys Familia and Asdrubal Cabrera potentially attractive to buyers. The Mets could pivot on their longstanding philosophy and deal away Jacob deGrom or Syndergaard, but trading either would indicate a full-scale rebuild -- something they do not appear willing to undertake.

Right now, the Mets see deGrom, Syndergaard and Cespedes as critical parts of their 2019 team. A return to health for the latter two players would do wonders for the team's outlook in '18 and beyond.

Video: Is Harper putting extra pressure on himself?

NATIONALS
The question: When will Bryce Harper be Bryce Harper again?

The Nationals have performed well enough without the usual output from Harper, whose batting average, on-base percentage and slugging mark are all down significantly from last season -- some of his major offensive statistics are down even from 2016, when rumors of a shoulder injury dogged him all summer. But Washington hasn't been able to upend Atlanta, which features the division's best offense (and statistically speaking, it's not particularly close).

It's not as if Harper, who leads the NL with 19 home runs, has been unproductive. It's just that he's far from the NL MVP Award candidate the Nats expected him to be. The good news for Washington? Harper's breakout appears to be a matter of when, not if. His average exit velocity is at its highest point since his 2015 NL MVP Award-winning season, while his batting average on balls in play is at a career low. Certainly, defensive shifts have played a role in that, but Harper is too elite of a hitter to stay this unproductive for long. How quickly he turns it around could well determine the NL East title.

Video: STL@PHI: Morgan induces grounder to preserve the win

PHILLIES
The question: Can Phils survive (or thrive) without a closer?

Philadelphia's Opening Day closer, Hector Neris, lost the job in May, and it didn't stop there, as he slid all the way to Triple-A this week. For now, the Phillies are going closer-by-committee, with Adam Morgan nailing down a rogue save on Wednesday. As new-school as they come, manager Gabe Kapler doesn't believe in set bullpen roles, preferring to use his best relievers in the highest-leverage spots. But decades of history suggests that strategy doesn't often work over a 162-game season, and the Phils' ninth-inning issues don't appear to be disappearing.

A team with issues on the left side of its infield won't necessarily be able to splurge on a closer before the Deadline, even with Familia and Zach Britton among those potentially available. Instead, there's a good chance it will be up to Seranthony Dominguez, Edubray Ramos and the rest of the Phillies' in-house mix to make Kapler's strategies work.

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.

Atlanta Braves, Miami Marlins, Philadelphia Phillies, Washington Nationals, New York Mets

Herrera stays hot, delivers late HR to top Cards

Outfielder's 4th straight game with homer seals 3rd straight series win
MLB.com @ToddZolecki

PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies center fielder Odubel Herrera asked his doubters to bet on him a week ago. Hope they did.

Herrera crushed a game-winning home run in the seventh inning of Wednesday afternoon's 4-3 victory over the Cardinals at Citizens Bank Park. He has homered in four consecutive games and five times in the past six games as Philadelphia has won three consecutive series for the first time since April. The Phils' maligned bullpen pitched three scoreless innings to preserve the victory, setting up a big series this weekend against the Nationals at Nationals Park.

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PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies center fielder Odubel Herrera asked his doubters to bet on him a week ago. Hope they did.

Herrera crushed a game-winning home run in the seventh inning of Wednesday afternoon's 4-3 victory over the Cardinals at Citizens Bank Park. He has homered in four consecutive games and five times in the past six games as Philadelphia has won three consecutive series for the first time since April. The Phils' maligned bullpen pitched three scoreless innings to preserve the victory, setting up a big series this weekend against the Nationals at Nationals Park.

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"When I told you that you should bet on me, I meant it," Herrera said through the team's interpreter. "I knew that I was getting close to being my regular self."

Video: STL@PHI: Arrieta, Morgan on arms, Herrera on hot bat

Herrera is hitting .419 (13-for-31) with two doubles, five home runs, eight RBIs and a 1.405 OPS in the past seven games. Herrera's style of play drew comparisons to Ichiro Suzuki from Phillies manager Gabe Kapler and to Vladimir Guerrero from Jake Arrieta. Both mentioned Herrera's remarkable hand-eye coordination with the bat.

"It's actually very satisfying to be compared to legends like them," Herrera said. "Because that means maybe one day I can be one, too."

He isn't a legend yet?

"I'm coming, I'm coming," Herrera said, laughing.

Herrera crushed a 2-1 slider from Cardinals right-hander Sam Tuivailala to right field to hand the Phillies a one-run lead in the seventh. Herrera said he knew immediately it would leave the park. He admired his handiwork a moment before flipping his bat and trotting around the bases.

How did it feel coming off the bat?

"Fresh," Herrera said. "In a way, it was very satisfying, because I could see how the pitcher was trying to mess up my timing, so we had a good battle going on, and I won it."

Left-hander Adam Morgan won a battle, too. Morgan blew a save in the ninth inning twice this month. He allowed a walk-off grand slam to Jason Heyward at Wrigley Field on June 6. Morgan also allowed a game-tying single to Kolten Wong in the ninth inning on Monday.

Video: STL@PHI: Morgan induces grounder to preserve the win

Fans booed as Morgan entered the game with a runner on second and one out in the ninth. He said he never heard them.

But Morgan got Matt Carpenter to pop out to third baseman Maikel Franco in foul territory with Franco running a long way to make the catch. Morgan then got Tommy Pham to ground out to Scott Kingery to end the game, with Kingery making the play despite pinch-runner Yairo Munoz being in front of him as the ball approached.

Video: STL@PHI: Franco tracks down Carpenter's foul ball

It was Morgan's first career save.

"It's hard not thinking about what just happened, but it's part of the game," Morgan said. "It's the mental part of the game and you can't sucked into that trap. It is never as bad as it is, and it is never as good as it is."

The Phillies have been playing relatively well lately, winning seven of their past 10 games. They are 39-33. Washington entered Wednesday night's game against Baltimore a half-game ahead of Philadelphia for the second National League Wild Card.

"I think coming off this series, we anticipate a highly-competitive series against a good ballclub on the road, and it seems like we're ready for that challenge." Arrieta said.

Video: STL@PHI: Arrieta gets Martinez swinging for his 1st K

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Hail, Cesar: Cesar Hernandez hit a two-run home run to right field in the fourth inning to hand the Phillies a 3-1 lead. It was his eighth homer of the season. Hernandez's batting average (.256) and OPS (.752) dropped to season lows on June 14, but he has hit .333 (7-for-21) with one double, three RBIs and a .798 OPS in his past five games.

Video: STL@PHI: Hernandez hits HR as fan makes great catch

SOUND SMART
Seven Phils pitchers have earned a save this season: Hector Neris (10), Seranthony Dominguez (three), Jake Thompson (two), Edubray Ramos (one), Luis Garcia (one), Tommy Hunter (one) and Morgan (one). Philadelphia has not had this many pitchers record a save in a season since 2007, when a franchise-record nine pitchers accomplished the feat: Brett Myers (21), Antonio Alfonseca (eight), Tom Gordon (six), Clay Condrey (two), J.D. Durbin (one), Jose Mesa (one), Chad Durbin (one), Ryan Madson (one), Francisco Rosario (one) and John Ennis (one).

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Arrieta allowed four hits, three runs, two walks and struck out five in six innings. He entered the afternoon with the fifth-lowest home run rate (2.2 percent) out of 98 qualified pitchers in baseball (minimum 200 pitches), according to Statcast™. But Arrieta allowed two game-tying home runs to Yadier Molina: a solo homer to left field in the second and a two-run homer to right in the sixth. Molina entered the game hitting .200 (6-for-30) with one homer, two RBIs, one walk and 11 strikeouts in his career against Arrieta.

Video: STL@PHI: Molina leaves the yard twice vs. Phillies

"It's just tough to come out after the sixth, giving up the two-run homer to Yadi, second of the day," Arrieta said. "But at least I was able to keep it close, keep the team in it and our offense was good today. Had some really nice at-bats. And obviously, Odubel with the go-ahead homer in the seventh was huge for us. He's starting to get hot again."

HE SAID IT
"It's a possibility. We're reading and reacting to what's happening on the field, so because there's not an alternate universe, I can't tell you for sure." -- Kapler, if he would have allowed Victor Arano to remain in the game in the ninth if he retired the first two batters

UP NEXT
The Phillies and Nationals will play seven times by July 1, beginning with a 7:05 p.m. ET first pitch at Nationals Park on Friday night. Zach Eflin (4-2, 3.43 ERA) will start after allowing one run in five innings against the Brewers last week. He has a 1.93 ERA in three June starts, all of which were wins. Washington has yet to announce a starter.

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

Philadelphia Phillies, Odubel Herrera

Neshek finds old contract offer on Facebook

If you've ever found yourself sorting through old mail, you've probably discovered that you've missed out on some opportunities. Maybe it was a great coupon for discounted chicken wings, or maybe it was a free car wash. Chances are that none of us have ever stumbled upon a professional baseball contract offer, though.

Well, that happened to Phillies reliever Pat Neshek.

Crawford, Phils must readjust again after injury

MLB.com

PHILADELPHIA -- J.P. Crawford stood at his locker in the Phillies' clubhouse before Wednesday afternoon's 4-3 win over the Cardinals at Citizens Bank Park with a wrapped left hand and a look of disappointment. A bone on the top of that hand is broken. Depending on how it heals, the rookie third baseman could be on the disabled list until August. He almost certainly won't play again before the All-Star break.

"Plain and simple, it sucks," Crawford said. "I mean, I want to be out there playing with my teammates and helping them win. But you know, can't do anything about it. Just part of the game. Just going to try to better as quick as I can and help my team out."

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PHILADELPHIA -- J.P. Crawford stood at his locker in the Phillies' clubhouse before Wednesday afternoon's 4-3 win over the Cardinals at Citizens Bank Park with a wrapped left hand and a look of disappointment. A bone on the top of that hand is broken. Depending on how it heals, the rookie third baseman could be on the disabled list until August. He almost certainly won't play again before the All-Star break.

"Plain and simple, it sucks," Crawford said. "I mean, I want to be out there playing with my teammates and helping them win. But you know, can't do anything about it. Just part of the game. Just going to try to better as quick as I can and help my team out."

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The break is not complete and won't require surgery, Crawford said. He is expected to miss four to six weeks. Mitch Walding was recalled from Triple-A Lehigh Valley to take Crawford's spot on the active roster.

It happened when a 93.8-mph fastball from Cardinals starting pitcher Luke Weaver hit Crawford's left hand on a check swing during the fourth inning of the Phillies' 7-6 loss at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday night. Crawford immediately popped out of the box and doubled over in pain. After a lengthy check from the Phils' trainer and manager Gabe Kapler, Crawford took his base and stayed in the game, but he was replaced by Maikel Franco at third base the next inning.

"Once I looked at it and it started swelling up, and my knuckle looked completely different," Crawford said, "I knew something was wrong from the get-go."

In his first full season as a Major Leaguer, Crawford has been stripped of the chance to find any sort of rhythm. He started slowly in April, posting a .246 on-base percentage despite his reputation for bringing a disciplined approach to the plate. Then a right forearm strain sidelined Crawford from April 28 through the end of May.

Since his return from the DL on June 6, though, Crawford had gone 6-for-29 while drawing eight walks to earn a .425 OBP in that span.

"I was getting comfortable," Crawford said. "It was just a part of getting reps, getting at-bats, getting back into the sort of things -- and then to just have this freak accident happen."

Those reps were a product of Crawford's permanent move to third base while the Phillies experiment with Scott Kingery at shortstop. The pairing relegated a struggling Franco to the bench. Two weeks into that arrangement, the left side of the infield must change again.

Kapler said Franco will get "plenty of looks" at third, while Jesmuel Valentin will see some time, too. Walding, who went 0-for-6 with six strikeouts during a week with the Phillies at the beginning of the month, primarily plays third base.

"It's really tough," Kapler said. "I feel for [Crawford], the man. I feel for him, the player. He worked really hard to get back here.

"[Crawford's] at-bats had been really coming around. They've been longer. He's been seeing the ball really well. He's been good on defense -- really good on defense at third base. I think he was in a confident space and I think the whole clubhouse really cares for J.P. Disappointed for him, disappointed for us. It's a big loss."

Joe Bloss is a reporter for MLB.com based in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia Phillies, J.P. Crawford

Phillies 'pen can't tamp down Cardinals' bats

MLB.com @ToddZolecki

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies made the case Tuesday afternoon that their bullpen not only has pitched better than results have shown recently, but it has been one of the best bullpens in the National League.

A few hours later, that bullpen blew a two-run lead in the seventh inning and allowed the game-winning home run in the ninth inning in a 7-6 loss to the Cardinals at Citizens Bank Park.

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PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies made the case Tuesday afternoon that their bullpen not only has pitched better than results have shown recently, but it has been one of the best bullpens in the National League.

A few hours later, that bullpen blew a two-run lead in the seventh inning and allowed the game-winning home run in the ninth inning in a 7-6 loss to the Cardinals at Citizens Bank Park.

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"I think we have a pretty solid group," Tommy Hunter said. "Just need to make better pitches."

The Phillies' bullpen had a 2.86 ERA through May 5. It ranked among the best in baseball in expected wOBA (.308, tied for fifth), expected batting average (.226, tied for fifth) and expected slugging percentage (.384, sixth). But the bullpen has been hit much harder since. It has a 5.42 ERA since May 5. It has ranked toward the bottom in xwOBA (.330, 20th), xBA (.264, 28th) and xSLG (.441, 25th). Former closer Hector Neris not only lost his job in that time, he got demoted to Triple-A. The Phillies have been operating without a closer since.

The talent might be there, but the results have not.

Video: STL@PHI: Alfaro throws out Munoz at second base

"Roughly six days ago, the questions that we were addressing were: Are you concerned about this offense?" Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. "I said very comfortably that I had a lot of confidence in this offense, and the reason I said I had a lot of confidence in this offense is because I know that we have a talented group of individuals, guys that have a track record of success.

"I'm very confident in our bullpen too for the same reason. We have a lot of athletic arms out there, guys that are prepared to play every single night, guys with a track record of success. Seranthony Dominguez has been dominant through the beginning of his career. Tommy Hunter has years of success under his belt. That's why we went and got him. Do I have confidence in our bullpen? Absolutely. Just like I have confidence in our offense."

Phillies right-hander Vince Velasquez carried a 4-2 lead into the seventh inning when he allowed two batters to reach base with one out. Kapler summoned Hunter from the bullpen. Before the game, Phillies general manager Matt Klentak mentioned that Hunter arguably could be having the best season of his career, possibly referring to Hunter's career-best 2.34 FIP.

But after Hunter recorded the second out in the seventh, he allowed a double to Matt Carpenter, a single to Tommy Pham and a double to Jose Martinez to score four runs. The Cardinals had a 6-4 lead.

"I mean, it sucks," Hunter said. "It was a big part of the game, and I didn't come through."

Phillies left fielder Rhys Hoskins hit a two-out double to right-center field in the eighth -- he hit a 1-2 fastball from Jordan Hicks that registered 101.3 mph -- to score Jesmuel Valentin and Cesar Hernandez to tie the game. But then, Dominguez, who has established himself as Kapler's most trusted bullpen weapon in a little more than a month, allowed a two-out solo home run to Carpenter in the ninth to make it 7-6.

Dominguez threw Carpenter three consecutive fastballs, the last hitting 98.1 mph.

"I prefer that pitch because when you're ahead in the count sometimes hitters tend to shorten the swing to protect the zone," Dominguez said, asked why he preferred his fastball over his slider. "It has worked for me plenty of times, and sometimes you win, sometimes you lose."

Carpenter said he expected the fastball.

"Ninety-eight with cut," he added. "The last time we faced him, he didn't show a ton of sliders. Everything was firm. It's something where you have to step in the box and be ready to go. Because it's coming at you."

Video: STL@PHI: Santana drills a solo homer to right field

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
So smooth: Carlos Santana hit a solo home run to right field in the fifth inning to give the Phillies a 4-2 lead. It was his 11th homer of the season. Santana entered the game hitting .285 with eight homers, 27 RBIs and a .940 OPS since May 4. He ranked 18th in OPS out of 168 qualified players in that span. Santana also has 40 RBIs and 51 walks this season. The only other three players in baseball with 40 or more RBIs and 50 or more walks are Mike Trout, Aaron Judge and Bryce Harper.

Odubel stays hot: Phillies center fielder Odubel Herrera hit a rope over the right-field fence in the third inning for a solo home run, handing the Phillies a 2-1 lead. The ball left his bat at 108.5 mph and traveled a projected 403 feet. It was Herrera's 11th homer of the season. He is hitting .370 (10-for-27) with one double, four home runs, seven RBIs and a 1.245 OPS in his last six games.

SOUND SMART
Hoskins is hitting .333 (13-for-39) with three doubles, four home runs, 13 RBIs and a 1.118 OPS in 10 games since returning from the 10-day disabled list because of a broken jaw. He has reached base safely in eight of those 10 games.

Video: STL@PHI: Hoskins hits 2-run double to tie game in 8th

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Hoskins' double was the second-hardest pitch hit for an extra-base hit this season. The Cubs' Kris Bryant hit a double off a 101.9 mph fastball from Hicks on May 5. Arizona's A.J. Pollock tied Hoskins, hitting a double off a 101.3 mph fastball from Hicks on April 5.

HE SAID IT
"I don't think it was a rookie mistake at all. I think it was not a perfectly located pitch. But you can find those from veterans and you can find them from rookies. It's just imperfect. If you can rewind time maybe you throw that pitch a little more in off the plate, maybe it's foul. This is a game of inches and we've seen that over the last couple of days." -- Kapler, on Dominguez throwing Carpenter three consecutive fastballs in the ninth

Video: STL@PHI: Crawford shaken up after HBP, later exits

CRAWFORD BREAKS LEFT HAND
Phillies shortstop J.P. Crawford broke his hand in the fourth inning, when he got hit by a pitch. Kapler said Crawford will miss 4-6 weeks. Maikel Franco is expected to pick up the bulk of playing time at third base, while Crawford recovers.

UP NEXT
Phillies right-hander Jake Arrieta (5-5, 3.33 ERA) faces Cardinals right-hander Michael Wacha (8-2, 3.24 ERA) on Wednesday afternoon in the finale of a three-game series at Citizens Bank Park. Arrieta had a 2.16 ERA through his first 10 starts this season, but he has struggled in June. He has a 7.98 ERA in three starts this month.

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

Philadelphia Phillies

Medina fans 10 for Clearwater

MLB.com @wboor

Here's MLB Pipeline's roundup of the top prospect performances in the Minor Leagues on Tuesday.

Matt Thaiss and Taylor Ward each put together huge offensive performances to lead Triple-A Salt Lake to a 17-9 win over Colorado Springs.

Here's MLB Pipeline's roundup of the top prospect performances in the Minor Leagues on Tuesday.

Matt Thaiss and Taylor Ward each put together huge offensive performances to lead Triple-A Salt Lake to a 17-9 win over Colorado Springs.

:: Complete prospect coverage ::

The duo combined for nine hits, three homers and four RBIs in the Bees' offensive explosion. Most notably, Thaiss set a career high with five hits and Ward turned in the second two-homer game of his career.

Thaiss, the Angels' No. 8 prospect, hit a solo homer in the second and also added a double as he finished 5-for-7 and boosted his average to .340 through 23 games with the Bees. The big performance was also the second in as many days for Thaiss, who went 2-for-5 with a grand slam on Monday.

Ward, the Angels' No. 13 prospect, had a perfect night at the plate, going 4-for-4 with a pair of walks and four runs scored. The catcher hit a solo homer in the third and then added a two-run blast in the fourth. He also added a double and is hitting .328 in the 14 games since he was promoted from Double-A Mobile.

Watch: Thaiss' solo homer

Other top prospect performances from Tuesday's action:

No. 51 overall prospect Alex Faedo (Tigers' No. 3) certainly appeared ready for the advanced competition as he made his debut with Double-A Erie. Faedo, who posted a 3.10 ERA through 12 starts with Class A Advanced Lakeland, matched his season high with seven strikeouts as he threw 55 of his 83 pitches for strikes across six innings. The right-hander also walked two and gave up two runs on two hits.

• No. 76 overall prospect Adonis Medina (Phillies' No. 2) set a season high with 10 strikeouts as he cruised through six innings of one-run ball for Class A Advanced Clearwater. Medina, who has given up one earned run or fewer in four of his past five starts, threw 64 of his 95 pitches for strikes in the outing.

• No. 79 overall prospect Carter Kieboom (Nationals' No. 3) put together a memorable performance in the Carolina League All-Star Game. Kieboom, who has homered 11 times in 61 games with Class A Advanced Potomac this season, went deep in the exhibition, one of his three hits on the night.

Watch: Kieboom drills solo shot

Blue Jays No. 8 prospect Ryan Borucki spun his first complete game of the season as he led Triple-A Buffalo to a win over Pawtucket. Borucki, who threw 62 of his 93 pitches for strikes, gave up three hits and walked one over seven scoreless innings. The lefty also notched four strikeouts and lowered his ERA to 3.27 with his fourth scoreless start of the year.

Borucki notches a strikeout

• Blue Jays No. 9 prospect T.J. Zeuch has been lights out for Double-A New Hampshire lately and that trend continued once again. Zeuch was stuck with a no-decision after giving up a pair of unearned runs over seven innings. The 22-year-old struck out seven and has given up two earned runs or fewer in each of his past six starts.

• Phillies No. 9 prospect Ranger Suarez picked up his third win of the season as he fired a complete game for Double-A Reading. Suarez, 22, gave up one run over seven innings and lowered his ERA to 3.04 -- the lowest it's been all season. The left-hander also walked two and struck out five in the outing.

Mariners No. 2 prospect Evan White put forth a strong showing in the California League All-Star Game. White helped lift the North to a win over the South as he went 2-for-4 with a trio of RBIs. White's highlight came in the third inning as he blasted a two-run homer to help the North break the game open.

Pirates No. 18 prospect Clay Holmes' run of dominance continued as he picked up his fourth straight win for Triple-A Indianapolis. Holmes, who has given up one earned run or less in each of those starts, surrendered one run over a season high 7 1/3 innings. The right-hander didn't issue a walk for the third time this season and also matched his season high with eight strikeouts. Holmes gave up five hits and threw 67 of his 100 pitches for strikes.

Holmes notches eighth strikeout

Royals No. 2 prospect Nick Pratto made the most of his All-Star experience, helping the South top the North in the South Atlantic League All-Star Game. Pratto, who was named the game's MVP, hit a two-run homer in the fifth and finished with a game-high four RBIs on a 2-for-5 night.

Twins No. 13 prospect Travis Blankenhorn stuffed the box score in Class A Fort Myers' win over Tampa. The third baseman put together his seventh three-hit game of the season, going 3-for-5 with a pair of doubles. Blankenhorn also drove in two, scored twice and picked up his fifth stolen base of the season.

Yankees No. 5 prospect Luis Medina put up nothing but zeros in his 2018 debut with Rookie-level Pulaski. Medina didn't yield a hit over his four scoreless frames, but the outing wasn't quite as smooth as that line would dictate. The 19-year-old gave up one unearned run, struck out four and issued five walks and he threw 43 of his 78 pitches for strikes.

William Boor is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter at @wboor.