Phils cruise to twin bill sweep of Fish
Utley's hitting streak at 31, Howard belts 35th home run
PHILADELPHIA -- When Phillies general manager Pat Gillick said that the Phillies were in for a tough road with a revamped roster, somebody forgot to tell the players who remained.The Phillies took another step toward making fans forget Bobby Abreu as they finished off a doubleheader sweep of the Marlins with a 9-2 win Sunday night at Citizens Bank Park, their third win in a row. The Phillies have scored 32 runs in three games without Abreu in the lineup. The victory followed Philadelphia's 11-5 win in the opener with an similarly convincing win in the nightcap. While Abreu was clearly missed in the clubhouse on Sunday, he wasn't missed on the field. "It's kind of a sad moment," Ryan Howard said. "You don't want to see anybody go that you're real close to." But Howard and company couldn't sulk, they had to play ball. And that they did. Chase Utley extended his hitting streak to 31 games with the go-ahead single in the Phils' six-run sixth inning, and Howard hit a towering home run -- his 35th, tying him for the Major League lead. It added up to a 12-hit attack that is becoming characteristic of the suddenly potent offense. "We're just putting good at-bats together," said Utley, who again wouldn't comment on his pursuit of history. "We're waiting for our pitch to hit." One thing the Phillies are not waiting for is next year -- or the year after. Gllick had a 15-minute press conference in which he aired his doubts about the near future and talked about building for the long haul. "Realistically, I think it's a stretch to think that we're going to be there in '07," Gillick said. "I think probably right now, it's going to take longer than that." In the short term, the Phils are now winners of five of their last six to close within five games of Cincinnati in the National League Wild Card race. And while it may be Danny Sandoval, Michael Bourn and Scott Mathieson instead of David Bell, Bobby Abreu and Cory Lidle, a pennant race is a pennant race. "Give me 25 players. We'll play," manager Charlie Manuel said. Gillick said that the Phillies should expect at least one more of their teammates to vacate his locker at Monday's 4 p.m. ET trade deadline. Given how the Phillies handled losing two of their teammates on Sunday, that may not be a bad thing. "It happened, and everybody knows you have to just move on," Howard said. "When the dust clears, we'll see who's here and go from there." Like they've been doing for the last three games, the Phillies put up a big inning, this time knocking out Marlins starter Brian Moehler. Ryan Madson picked up his ninth win of the season, giving up two runs in six innings and keeping the bullpen in good shape after both games with a day game on Monday. "It's always good to win a doubleheader," Manuel said. The manager, whose familiar refrain is that he comes to the ballpark to win every day, is coming to the ballpark to win no matter who's on his lineup card or on the mound. And with a team that's playing loose, and will likely be even looser once the trade deadline rolls around on Monday, even he doesn't know what to expect. "Hustle, go out and play the game right, do the best that we can," Manuel said. "If we do that, I think you might see some surprises."
Zachary Levine is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.