ATLANTA - Odubel Herrera stood at second base on Monday night, smacked his hands together, pointed to the Phillies' dugout, and rammed his fists to his helmet. The energetic outfielder celebrated another double, his sixth in three days, as the Phillies routed the Braves, 11-4, at SunTrust Park.
It has been a long season for Herrera, whose struggles were so bad that manager Pete Mackanin was forced to bench him last week. It felt like an eternity since "El Torito" was brandishing his fists into bull horns. And there he was Monday, looking more like the player of the last two seasons and not the one of the last two months.
He went 3 for 5 with three runs scored. Herrera hit a two-run homer in the fourth inning and the Phillies stormed to a 9-0 lead. He became the first player in Phillies history to hit two doubles in three straight games and joined Del Ennis (1952) as the only Phillies players to hit two doubles and a homer in consecutive games. Both of Herrera's doubles led to runs as he seemed to ignite the lineup.
Herrera's slump - which included a 10-for-72 stretch in May - will take more than three good games to say he has regained his confidence at the plate. But he certainly looks improved.
"It's been pretty awesome to watch," Tommy Joseph said. "Any time he swings the stick, it's a barrell. Good for him. Get him going, a guy at the top of the order that can do so much offensively is a good weapon to have. It's good when he gets going like this."
Herrera helped Nick Pivetta earn his first major-league win, giving the Phillies their first three-game winning streak since late April. The righthander, who was promoted from triple A to take Vince Velasquez's spot in the rotation, allowed three runs on six hits in five innings. Pivetta struck out four and walked three.
The pitcher was hit in the backside by a line drive in the fifth inning but stayed in the game after being visited by the team's trainer. Pivetta seemed uncomfortable as he walked a batter and was visited again by the trainer. The pitcher was then rocked for a two-run triple before escaping the inning.
"I mean the game quickened up on me a little bit," Pivetta said. "I got a little more adrenaline in me. It was hard to slow down. I probably should have slowed down a little more. I'll learn from it next time. Not every day do you get hit in the hand, though. But I'll learn from it and do a better job."
The Phillies jumped all over Bartolo Colon, who allowed eight runs in 32/3 innings in what may be his final start with the Braves. Joseph homered, drove in three runs and survived a scare of his own. The first baseman appeared to injure his right hand in the third inning when he slid back to second base after being picked off. Joseph was slow to get up and was visited by the trainer. He, too, stayed in the game. He hit a two-run homer in the first and an RBI double in the third. It was Joseph's second homer in three games.
Aaron Altherr, who singled in a run in the first, hit a two-run homer in the eighth. Andrew Knapp added an RBI double and Cesar Hernandez drove in two runs. Maikel Franco (0 for 5) was the lone starter to not have a hit. The Braves' pitching staff seemed like the perfect slumpbusters for a lineup that has been sagging for a month.
There were rumblings last month that the Phillies may option Herrera to triple A to allow him the chance to right his season. It would not have been hard for the Phillies to justify that move. His swing rate - 55.3 percent, according to FanGraphs - is baseball's sixth-highest mark and he has the fourth-highest swing rate - 42.7 percent - at pitches outside the strike zone.
Herrera looked lost. And a three-day stretch may be enough for him to put his season back on track. Mackanin said before the game that he hoped Herrera was able to find confidence after a strong weekend at home.
The batter certainly looked confident in the fourth as he turned on a curveball and laced a speeding line drive to right for a two-run homer. Herrera stepped on home plate and emphatically smacked his hands. His slump is not yet busted, but it is starting to feel far away.