More signs of life in another vic­tory

The Times Herald (Norristown, PA) - - SPORTS - By DEN­NIS DEITCH

WASH­ING­TON — They have been with­out Cliff Lee, their best pitcher in 2013. They have roster is­sues that clearly need to be re­solved in the off­sea­son. The gen­eral man­ager al­ready has de­clared that he ex­pects there to be sig­nif­i­cant changes to the makeup of the team be­tween the end of this sea­son and the start of 2015.

Yet, there were the Phillies

(66-75) Satur­day, dis­patch­ing the Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als for the sec­ond straight day, this time a 3-1 win be­hind A.J. Bur­nett. It was their 12th win in their last 17 games, all but one of those com­ing against con­tend­ing teams. They are less than 10 games be­low the .500 mark for the first time since July 11. After open­ing the sea­son with a bench de­void of any­one able to pro­duce, the Phillies have got­ten so many con­tri­bu­tions across the board that Ryne Sand­berg gets ques­tions daily about pro­duc­tive play­ers get­ting too lit­tle play­ing time.

Those are the facts. And here comes the ques­tion: Is there a point, if this team con­tin­ues to play qual­ity base­ball against teams that are still play­ing for some­thing, where this run ex­tends long enough to al­low hope to creep back into the pic­ture for the fran­chise’s fu­ture?

“I don’t know,” said Ryan Howard, whose two-run sin­gle in the third pro­vided the of­fense needed. “Ev­ery team is able to go on a run. It’s been a tough year for us col­lec­tively, but you try to come to­gether and fin­ish strong and build into next year — pos­si­bly. “That’s all you can do ...” After pon­der­ing it in the shower after the win, Sand­berg said that, yes, there have been things he has seen of late that makes him feel there is more in the club­house at the mo­ment to like than there had been dur­ing the long, sullen sum­mer.

“We have some ar­eas that need to be fig­ured out (for 2015),” Sand­berg said. “The start­ing pitch­ing is un­set­tled, and it de­pends who is back. But yeah, I think we are show­ing bet­ter depth right now. We have things we can work with.

“It speaks for the makeup and for the guys play­ing hard ev­ery game. Some of that comes from the core guys. That’s what they are all about.”

Howard’s sin­gle came after Bur­nett had started the in­ning with a base hit. Howard has had 28 RBIs in his last 28 games, and is bat­ting .267 with a .353 on-base and .458 slug­ging per­cent­age in that span. It has helped that Ben Re­vere has been on an in­sane run at the plate — although he went 0-for4 Satur­day — but there’s only one guy hit­ting be­hind Re­vere av­er­ag­ing an RBI per game, and it’s Howard.

Howard has been start­ing reg­u­larly at first base since an in­ter­nally con­tro­ver­sial three­game bench­ing in late July. But his oc­ca­sional day off here and there gives Darin Ruf a start, and he’s been pro­duc­tive there and in starts in left field. Grady Size­more has been a fruit­ful ad­di­tion. Maikel Franco is here. Even Freddy Galvis is mak­ing bet­ter con­tact after an in­juryrid­dled and in­ef­fec­tive open­ing half.

“That’s what it takes,” Howard said. “We’ve been get­ting timely hits, Rev’s been swing­ing a hot bat. We’re just try­ing to ride that wave.”

“Any time you win games, it’s go­ing to help the en­vi­ron­ment,” said Bur­nett, who must de­cide soon after the reg­u­lar sea­son’s end if he will re­turn to the mound in 2015 and ac­cept the lu­cra­tive op­tion in his con­tract, or re­tire. “It’s late, but it’s good base­ball. A lot of guys could have packed it in, gone for in­di­vid­ual things and not wor­ried about it. But we’re play­ing good base­ball and we’re play­ing team base­ball and hav­ing a great time.”

The As­so­ci­ated Press

Ryan Howard con­nects for a two-run sin­gle in the third in­ning of the Phillies’ 3-1 win over the Na­tion­als Satur­day.

The As­so­ci­ated Press

Philadel­phia Phillies sec­ond base­man Chase Ut­ley, left, first base­man Ryan Howard, third base­man Cody Asche, catcher Wil Nieves, re­lief pitcher Jonathan Papel­bon and oth­ers cel­e­brate after a base­ball game against the Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als at Na­tion­als...

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