Myers comes through for Phillies
Right-hander delivers strong start, saves bullpen
WASHINGTON -- After running through nearly every available pitcher in their bullpen in Friday night's 12-inning victory, and with two more games on tap within the next 24 hours, the one thing the Phillies needed more than anything on Saturday afternoon was a quality outing from starter Brett Myers.
And that's exactly what they got.
The veteran right-hander sparkled, allowing two runs on three hits over seven innings en route to an 8-5 Phillies victory over the host Nationals in the day installment of a day-night doubleheader.
Myers (3-2) struck out eight, including four in his last two innings, to ensure the bullpen a little bit of a breather as he left with a 6-2 lead, coming out for a pinch-hitter in the top of the eighth.
"I was thinking about sending him back out there, but once we had runners in scoring position and all those left-handed hitters on the bench, I figured we might as well use them," said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. "And we were able to tack on a couple of runs, but he did a tremendous job."
Myers, who lowered his ERA to 4.50 with the outing, did give up two homers on the day, but overall was in command, especially in the later innings.
"After the third inning I felt like he really settled in and started going more at the hitters," Manuel observed. "He looked like he was really making sure he was spotting his fastball."
It wasn't just his bullpen members who appreciated Myers' yeoman effort, either. The Phillies' hitters also were delighted with the outing.
"Brett did a tremendous job today when we really needed someone to step up and eat some innings," said outfielder Raul Ibanez. "Not only did he do that, he turned in a brilliant performance."
Ibanez wasn't so bad himself. In fact, he turned the bullpen breather into an early laugher, as he connected for a pair of home runs in his first two at-bats to jumpstart the offense's 14-hit attack.
In his first multihomer game of the season and the 10th of his career, Ibanez followed up a four-hit game on Friday with three more hits and four RBIs. Heading into the Saturday nightcap, he was hitting .361 with 12 home runs and 32 RBIs, ranking among the National League leaders in several offensive categories, including a .714 slugging percentage that topped the circuit.
The first inning saw nearly identical results, as both teams swapped solo homers, with the Phillies (18-16) getting Ibanez's first blast, a two-out shot to center field, and the Nationals answering with a Ryan Zimmerman two-out long ball into the center-field stands.
That's pretty much where the similarities ended.
After Jayson Werth went deep for the Phillies in the second inning to regain the lead, the club added three more runs in the third. Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino reached on back-to-back singles, setting the stage for Ibanez's majestic second blast into the upper deck in center field, breaking the game open at 5-1.
"When the offense gets you early runs like that and a pretty substantial lead, it's pretty easy to pitch that way," said Myers. "Just throw fastballs for strike one and go from there."
Nationals outfielder Josh Willingham tagged Myers for a solo homer in the bottom of the fourth, but that was the end of the damage off the Phillies starter. And once again his team responded immediately, scoring a run of their own in the fifth.
Once again, Ibanez was in the middle of the scoring, though this time he got it started by reaching on an error as his slow roller handcuffed Washington first baseman Nick Johnson. Ibanez came around to score on Werth's third hit of the day, a single to left, to make it 6-2.
The Phillies tacked on two more runs in the eighth on RBI singles from Rollins and Victorino, who each had two hits on the day.
They would need those runs later, when Ryan Madson came on in relief in the eighth and gave up three runs on four hits to pull the Nationals to within three at 8-5.
The sudden Nationals eruption turned a rout into a save situation for closer Brad Lidge, which also was timely for the Phillies.
Lidge, who had 41 saves and a 1.95 ERA to help lead the team to the World Series title in 2008, had been off to a rough start in '09, with a 9.19 ERA and just five saves. He'd blown a save on Friday night, giving up two runs with two outs in the ninth that sent the game into extra innings.
But Manuel had proclaimed his faith in his stopper and swore he'd send him right back out there when the situation arose.
He was good to his word when it arose fewer than 24 hours later, and Lidge rose to the occasion, pitching a scoreless ninth and getting dangerous pinch-hitter Elijah Dukes to strike out swinging for the final out and his sixth save.
"His stuff is there, it's good, and he's our closer," Manuel said. "We're going to keep running him out there to get him right."
Lisa Winston is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.