Garcia strong as Phils plow past Reds
Howard, Utley lead charge offensively as Philly wins series
CINCINNATI -- It might have been a beautiful afternoon for the 29,717 at Great American Ball Park to soak in some baseball on April 22, but Phillies pitcher Freddy Garcia did not want to take part of the Earth Day festivities.
Hence, the Philly newcomer is no longer green in the National League, as he picked up his first career win in the Senior Circuit on Sunday while the Phils grabbed a 9-3 decision over the Reds to take the series.
Behind the right-hander's five innings of work -- in which he allowed four hits, no walks and two earned runs -- Philadelphia was able to win two straight games for the first time in 2007.
"I thought Garcia did pretty good for his second outing," manager Charlie Manuel said. "He has a good feel for pitching."
Garcia thought the start was another step in the right direction.
"I'm felling really good," Garcia said. "I'm getting stronger, and I'm getting back my power."
The former American League standout did find some room for self-criticism.
"With a three- or four-run lead like I had -- and I only can go five innings -- I don't like that. I want to go six or seven, but I was behind in the count a lot."
After Garcia (1-1) allowed the first two hitters to reach in the sixth, relievers Matt Smith, Geoff Geary and the arm of Shane Victorino limited the damage. Edwin Encarnacion's bases-loaded single to right brought in Scott Hatteberg, but Victorino gunned down Brandon Phillips' attempt to score from second, ending the Reds' biggest threat.
"It stopped the inning, but also saved a run, too," Manuel said.
"They were right there knocking on the door, and the inning keeps going. That was probably the play of the game."
According to Victorino, it was just a matter of aggressiveness paying off.
"I was trying to attack the ball and put a pretty good throw on it," Victorino said.
"At first, I thought I didn't have a chance with Phillips running. I told myself to, 'Come up and throw and anything can happen.' Fortunately enough, we got the out."
In the third, Garcia also got a defensive gem to keep the Reds from adding a run. After Ryan Freel tripled with two outs, Wes Helms made an excellent play on a ball that was quickly dying on the infield grass. Helms barehanded the ball and made the throw to narrowly get Hatteberg and escape the inning without any damage.
National League Most Valuable Player Ryan Howard ushered himself back into the lineup by hitting a RBI sacrifice fly to grab the lead for the Phils in the game's top frame -- a lead they would not relinquish. The slugger added a two-run home run in the eighth.
"Ryan popped one up, and it came down the behind the fence in center field," Manuel said of the blast, before adding with a grin, "I feel he's going to hit a few more."
The top of the order made some noise, as the first three batters, Jimmy Rollins, Victorino and Chase Utley, scored six of the Phillies' nine runs.
Utley led the charge, crossing three times and knocking two doubles. Helms collected three hits with an RBI and a run scored. Four players had multi-hit games, and Aaron Rowand extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a single in the third.
The back-to-back wins come on the heels of Saturday's team meeting after the Phils had fallen to a Major League-worst 4-11.
"It was kind of a reality check for everybody," Rowand said of the meeting. "Check yourself, make sure you're doing what you need to be doing to prepare to play on every pitch of every game."
The Phils were only one pitch away from sweeping the series, as they had the Reds down to their last out on Friday night before falling in extra innings.
By taking two out of three, though, Manuel believes Philadelphia can use the successful weekend to move forward in a positive direction.
"We will have a good homestand, and [will] have the fans stay interested, just like they were when we first started," he said.
Brian Connors Manke is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.