published Monday, July 11th, 2011

Hamels, Ibanez lift Phillies over Atlanta

PHILADELPHIA — The Phillies ended the first half of the season with another strong outing from a starting pitcher, and a surprising outburst by their inconsistent offense.

The latter might send alarm bells to the opposition after the Phillies used a season-high 20 hits, including a homer and six RBIs from Raul Ibanez, in a 14-1 rout of the Atlanta Braves on Sunday.

The Phillies took two of three in the series to increase their lead to 3 1/2 games over Atlanta in the NL East. Philadelphia (57-34) matched the club record for wins in the first half, tying the 1993 team.

Cole Hamels did what Philadelphia’s heralded starting staff has done all year, making life difficult for batters. Hamels (11-4) allowed three hits while striking out six and walking two in eight innings. The left-hander, who was selected to his second All-Star team but won’t pitch due to Sunday’s start, allowed just one hit after the second inning and retired his final 13 batters.

“He threw a heck of a game,” Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel said.

Manuel has said that often about his starters, led by All-Stars Hamels, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee who have combined to go 31-13. But Manuel has seen his offense, hurt somewhat by injuries, bat below expectations.

“Our hitting came alive today,” he said.

Philadelphia had 17 hits and scored four runs in 21 innings in the first two extra-inning games of the series before Sunday’s eruption.

While he expects his club’s hitting to improve after the All-Star break, Manuel hesitates be hyper critical.

“We got enough hitting to win 57 games. Any way you want to cut it, you can say whatever you want to about it, we had to score some runs to win those games,” Manuel said, before adding. “I don’t see a reason why we can’t score more runs [in the second half].”

Ibanez said improving is a matter of consistency for the offense.

“I think we’ve had much more consistent offensive approach, definitely consistently is the key,” he said. “We have the potential to do that and if we do that, with our pitching, then things are going to be really good for us.”

Besides Ibanez, the Phillies received boosts from two fill-ins.

John Mayberry Jr., subbing in for injured All-Star center fielder Shane Victorino, had three doubles and drove in a career-high four runs. And Michael Martinez, in for injured All-Star third baseman Placido Polanco, had four hits for the Phillies.

Martinez, who entered batting .192, raised his average to .229.

Derek Lowe (5-7) allowed 10 hits in four innings, and the Phillies tagged reliever Cory Gearrin for six runs in one-third of an inning.

“They’re a good team,” Lowe said. “Sometimes you have to say you got your butt beat.”

Dan Uggla doubled to extend his hitting streak to six games and scored for the Braves (54-38), who had won nine of 10 entering the series.

Hamels was the third straight All-Star starter to face the Braves in the series, following Halladay and Lee. Unlike his two heralded teammates, who received no-decisions despite pitching well, Hamels earned a victory thanks to the offensive support.

The Phillies’ offense was about the only difference between the three games.

“We’re not going to give up runs and we’re going to pitch deep in ballgames,” Hamels said of the starters.

Philadelphia led 4-1 before breaking the game open in the seventh with six runs on five hits and two walks. All of the runs were charged to Gearrin. The scoring was capped by Mayberry’s two-run double, his third of the game. Ibanez and Brown also had two-RBI hits in the frame in which the Phillies sent 10 batters to the plate.

The crowd of 45,853, the 172nd sellout and third-largest in Citizens Bank Park history, did the Tomahawk Chop in the inning in mock imitation of Braves fans at Turner Field.

Philadelphia added four more runs in the eighth, highlighted by Ibanez’s three-run homer to right off Scott Proctor.

That was more than enough for Hamels.

“He’s pretty tough,” Atlanta’s Brian McCann said of the left-hander. “You almost have to play perfect against him.”

Despite the Phillies’ win, neither side expects Philadelphia to run away in the second half.

“This was a big series for us to win, it’s going to help our team,” Manuel said. “I think it helps us more than it’s going to help them. I know their team. They’re going to come back in the second half and try to prove they’re better than we are. That’s baseball and it should be that way.”

“I think we’re pleased where we are,” McCann said. “They haven’t dominated us. We know we can play with them. They’re a great team and so are we.”

The Phillies broke a 1-1 tie with two runs in the third inning on RBIs from Ryan Howard and Ibanez. Martinez reached with a one-out infield single, went to third on Chase Utley’s single to right and scored on Howard’s single to center. Utley, who went to third on Howard’s hit after stealing second during the at-bat, scored on Ibanez’s grounder to second.

“The first two were great games,” Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez said of the series. “This one, just forget about it.”

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