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Odubel Herrera, Brad Miller help Phillies add to NL East lead over Mets

The ball has been flying at Citizens Bank Park this weekend, and the Phillies now have a 1 1/2-game lead in the NL East because of it.

Odubel Herrera watches his three-run home run head over the wall at Citizens Bank Park.
Odubel Herrera watches his three-run home run head over the wall at Citizens Bank Park.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

These are the kinds of wins you need if you hope to make the playoffs as an imperfect team. The first baseman and the short top were out of the lineup. The starting pitcher was going to be capped at 60 pitches. The opposing starter entered the day with a 2.68 ERA and impressive peripherals.

The Mets aren’t exactly the kind of team that has earned the benefit of a penciled-in win, but the Phillies certainly had their work cut out for them. Which made their 5-3 win on Saturday afternoon feel even bigger than it looked in the standings.

Say what you will about this Phillies team — and there was plenty to say after they took a 5-0, two-hit shutout into the ninth inning only to end the game with the Mets’ go-ahead run at the plate — but they’re getting the kind of production that always plays a huge role this time of year. That is, production from places where you wouldn’t ordinarily expect it. The bottom of the fourth inning brought home runs from Brad Miller and Odubel Herrera, neither of whom started the season in the starting lineup. Miller, who was making his second straight start at first base in place of an injured Rhys Hoskins, led off the inning with a solo shot to right. Four batters later, Herrera crushed a pitch from Tylor Megill into the second deck in right, a three-run shot that gave the Phillies a 4-0 lead.

The following half-inning, Herrera got a great jump on a hooking fly ball to deep left field and chased it down in the corner for the third out.

The wins that matter most are often the ones when the stars don’t shine. This was one such game, and, because of it, the Phillies now have a game-and-a-half lead in the NL East.

One batter too many for Maurico Llovera

Joe Girardi would have pulled reliever Mauricio Llovera after he allowed back-to-back solo home runs to lead off the ninth inning, but Major League Baseball’s new three-batter-minimum rule prevented him from making a switch to closer Ian Kennedy. All Girardi could do was sit back and watch as Llovera gave up a third straight home run, this one to James McCann. Kennedy came on and allowed two of the first three batters he faced to reach base but struck out Pete Alonso on three pitches before striking out J.D. Davis to end the game.

“I hate, hate, hate the rule,” Girardi said. “It just changes the strategy of the game too much.”

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Hammer Time ... at least for now

The Phillies got another productive outing from 26-year-old reliever J.D. Hammer, who struck out three in 2 ⅓ innings to run his scoreless innings streak to eight. It was a pivotal performance, coming as it came in relief of Ranger Suarez, who entered the day still stretching his arm out for his transition from the bullpen to the rotation. Suarez’s command wasn’t as sure as it has been throughout the season, and it was evident early that his 60-pitch limit would arrive well before Joe Girardi would have hoped. That brought Hammer jogging into the game with two out in the third inning and Suarez having just issued a walk to Alonso. He threw three straight strikes, two of them prompting swings, the last of them sending Davis back to the dugout and ending the inning.

It’s probably too early to get too excited about the big picture for Hammer. The bespectacled righty has been as lucky as he has been good since joining the team on July 10. This included Saturday, when he got a charitable called strike three on a breaking ball that was clearly underneath the zone and then gave up a hard hit line drive that Bryce Harper barely had to move to corral. From the perspective of end results, Hammer has been a big stopgap cog in the bullpen, retiring 25 of the 35 batters he’s faced without allowing a run or an extra base hit. But he entered Friday throwing just 55% of his pitches for strikes, with nearly a third of his batted balls in the form of line drives.

Herrera heating up

Herrera’s three-run blast in the fifth inning came on the heels of a leadoff double to the right field corner in the fourth. The center fielder entered the day having reached base in 11 of his last 29 plate appearances, a stretch that included a home run, a double and four RBIs.

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Next up

The Phillies go for the sweep against the Mets at 1:05 p.m. with former Met and current ace Zack Wheeler on the mound. He’ll square off against righty Taijuan Walker. Wheeler has a 4.36 ERA in his last five starts after posting a 2.05 ERA in his first 17. The Phillies are 13-9 in his starts this season.