Valdez the hero in Phils' eighth straight win
Club acquires Oswalt, then pulls within 2 1/2 games of Braves
PHILADELPHIA -- Roy Oswalt begins his Phillies career Friday night at Nationals Park with some pressure on him.
He has to keep the good times rolling.
The Phillies beat the Arizona Diamondbacks, 3-2, in 11 innings Thursday night at Citizens Bank Park to move within 2 1/2 games of the Atlanta Braves in the National League East. The Phils were seven games behind the Braves going into their first of eight straight wins on July 22. It's their longest since they had a 10-game winning streak last July. They also have an 11-game winning streak at home, their longest since they won 16 consecutive games at Veterans Stadium in 1991.
"We've got everything together," Phillies shortstop Wilson Valdez said.
Valdez, who went 3-for-5, hit a one-out single to center field in the 11th inning to score Cody Ransom from second base to win the game. He also helped turn big double plays in the seventh and ninth innings to prevent runs from scoring. Without Valdez's defense and his big hit in the 11th, Oswalt, who the Phillies acquired earlier in the day in a trade with the Houston Astros, would have been expected to start a new winning streak Friday against the Nationals.
Oswalt opens a six-game road trip through Washington and Florida.
It will help the Phillies on the road if they get some more solid starting pitching. Right-hander Kyle Kendrick pitched well Thursday, allowing four hits, one run and three walks while striking out five over 6 1/3 innings.
Philadelphia optioned Kendrick to Triple-A Lehigh Valley on July 20, which meant the Phillies needed a starter last Saturday against the Colorado Rockies. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. strongly hinted he had a trade in the works to replace Kendrick, but he said Thursday he never had a trade in place and intended to call up left-hander J.A. Happ from the very beginning. Amaro said he simply had not informed Happ of the decision.
But when left-hander Jamie Moyer injured his left elbow July 21, the Phillies were forced to bring back Kendrick.
Kendrick, perhaps pitching with a chip on his shoulder, has responded. He is 1-0 with a 1.35 ERA in his two starts since the demotion.
"Yeah, I should have been pitching like that all the time," Kendrick said. "Maybe it took that to kick in a little bit. Yeah, go out there and pitch with an edge, pitch with some urgency -- it was nice."
Kendrick allowed his only run Thursday in the seventh inning, when D-backs catcher Miguel Montero hit a towering fly ball that landed in the first few rows of seats in right field to cut the Phillies' lead to 2-1. Philadelphia took a 2-0 lead when Carlos Ruiz doubled to score Ransom in the fifth and Raul Ibanez homered to right in the sixth.
After Montero's homer, Kendrick allowed a single to Mark Reynolds and was replaced by Chad Durbin. Durbin allowed a single to Stephen Drew, but he got Gerardo Parra to hit into a big inning-ending double play. Right-hander Ryan Madson pitched a perfect eighth inning.
But in a sign Phillies manager Charlie Manuel might not have complete faith in closer Brad Lidge, Manuel started the ninth inning with Madson and had left-hander J.C. Romero warmed up and ready in the bullpen.
Lidge has struggled to pitch clean innings, but Madson and Romero fared no better as they allowed a run to score to send the game into extras.
Lidge then struck out two in a perfect 10th inning.
Manuel explained he wanted to have Madson open the inning against right-handed-hitting Justin Upton and have Romero face left-handed Adam LaRoche. Manuel thought the D-backs would then have right-handed Chris Snyder pinch-hit for left-handed Montero. In that case, Manuel said Lidge would have faced Snyder and Reynolds.
"We didn't want him to get into a big, long inning," Manuel said of Lidge. "We thought it was set up pretty good for us. ... I've always said he's our closer. He is. I don't want to be playing games with him. I don't plan on doing that a whole lot, really. More than likely, he's going to start our ninth inning. I've talked about that before. I definitely want to keep his confidence up. I want him to definitely feel like we trust him and things. In my mind, when you get right down to it, he's always been our closer."
Lidge wasn't Thursday, but it still worked out. Lately, everything has been working out for the Phillies. They even got a third ace, who makes his debut Friday.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.