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Saturday, August 20, 2016

Hellickson and Hernandez steer Phillies past Cardinals


Jeremy Hellickson has pitched extremely well for the Phillies since the All-Star break and he continued that streak on Saturday night, tossing seven strong innings in a 4-2 win at Citizens Bank Park over the Cardinals.

Hellickson's performance snapped a team skid of 22 games where a starter failed to reach the seventh inning. He struck out eight and surrendered just two runs on seven hits and dropped his ERA since the All-Star break to 2.89, compared to 3.92 over the first half of the season.

"That was just what the doctor ordered for us," manager Pete Mackanin said. "He saved our bullpen and probably could have given us another inning, but we have some good guys in the bullpen to finish it off."

Cesar Hernandez  continued to rake at the plate, finishing 3-for-4 on the evening with a homer to open the contest and ultimately scored the game-winning run in the fifth inning after leading off the frame with a double and scoring on a Maikel Franco single to left. His homer in the first stretched the Phillies consecutive streak of games with a tater to 14, tying a mark last reached in 2013.

"He's really leveled off on his swing," Mackanin said. "When you take a stride it levels out your bat plane and keeps the bat in the strike zone longer than if you were to upper-cut and go in and out."

An upper-cut swing was partly to blame for Hernandez's inconsistent first two months of the season. From the start of the year through May he hit just .256, but since June he's hitting .319.

"I'm trying to work a lot on my swing and it's working now," Hernandez said with a smile.  "It's getting to where I want it to be."

The Cardinals evened the contest at 2-2 in the third with Luke Weaver poking a single to center and Jeremy Hazelbaker crushing a two-run home run to left.

For the Phillies, Aaron Altherr added an insurance run in the sixth with a solo blast to left field. 

Jeanmar Gomez surrendered a single in the ninth but induced an inning ending double play to secure the win and collect his 33rd save of the season.

The two clubs  conclude their three-game series Sunday with Vincent Velasquez scheduled to oppose Mike Leake.
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Follow Patrick on Twitter: @PGordonPBR

BY PATRICK GORDON
Managing Editor
pgordon@philadelphiabaseballreview.com