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Phillies pick up league-leading 40th win of season

From the bottom of the order to the bullpen, the Phillies didn't need to lean on their stars following a 4-2 win Friday night over the Cardinals.

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It wasn’t so much that the Phillies came home from six games in Colorado and San Francisco with only two more wins than they had when they left a week earlier. Even the best team is going to hit a rough patch every now and again.

Which, by the way, they still are if their record is to be believed.

What was a little disconcerting, though, was that an offense that had been percolating like diner coffee pots during the breakfast rush, cooled off. In the four losses they scored 2, 2, 0 and 4 runs.

Just to put that in perspective, before that they had gone more than two weeks without scoring fewer than four runs even once.

The offense still wasn’t back to full boil Friday night when the team returned to Citizens Bank Park with a 4-2 win over the Cardinals. Which, when you think about it goes a long way toward explaining why they’ve been so successful to this point.

Despite their recent lull, they still lead baseball in runs scored.

The starting rotation has a 2.69 earned run average.

And, in the end game, manager Rob Thomson can choose from a smorgasbord that includes Matt Strahm (0.78), Jeff Hoffman (1.09), Orion Kerkering (1.47), Jose Ruiz (1.64) and Jose Alvarado (1.52 in his last 25 appearances since his first outing of the season).

They are now 40-18, just the third time in franchise history (1976, 1993) they’ve reached that milestone in their first 60 games.

So has the hitting taken a small step backwards? Maybe. But it doesn’t really matter.

Because Aaron Nola gave up two runs on three hits in 6.1 innings to the delight of a sellout crowd of 44,742, the largest of the season. Because he was followed by Strahm, Alvarado and Hoffman, who didn’t allow a baserunner.

Because the pitching benefited from a pair of outstanding defensive plays from second baseman Bryson Stott, one when he leaped to snare a line drive off the bat of catcher Ivan Herrera in the fourth and again in the eighth when he made a diving stop and threw leftfielder Alec Burleson out at first.

And because, on this night, No. 8 hitter Edmundo Sosa and No. 9 hitter Johan Rojas combined to drive in three of the runs with big two-out hits.

In short, they’ve shown no signs of being overly dependent on any one aspect of the game.

Nola continues to justify the Phillies decision to lock him up with a 7-year, $172 million contract last winter. He’s given up three or fewer earned runs in 10 of his 12 starts and pitched at least six innings eight times.

Trea Turner, who has been on the injured list since straining his left hamstring on May 3, took grounders hit right at him, jogged and hit in the cage before the game.

Once the lineups were exchanged and play began for real, though, it was Sosa who continued to pick up almost right where Turner left off.

The Phillies had already pushed a run across against Cardinals starter Mile Mikolas in the bottom of the second when Sosa stepped to the plate with two outs and Nick Castellanos at second. The first pitch he saw was a slider and Sosa ripped it just to the left of the center field bullpens and all the way into Ashburn Alley to put his team up by three.

It was the first time a Phillies hitter reached the concourse since Darick Hall in July, 2022. According to the Phillies it was the hardest-hit (110 mile an hour exit velocity) and longest (439 feet) homer of Sosa’s career.

Sosa has started 21 of 25 games at shortstop since Turner was hurt and is batting .313 in that span. “That guy’s raking right now,” Nola said. “I love watching him because he plays with a lot of passion and energy.”

Said Sosa, per interpreter Diego D’Aniello. “I feel like I’m living the dream right now. I’m having a lot of fun on the field and I’m just going out and trying to do things right. And I really feel good.”

Rojas came up with two down and Brandon Marsh on second after a double in the seventh and delivered an RBI single to right. Fun fact: Overall, Rojas is hitting .229. But with runners in scoring position he’s 15-for-49 (.306).

The Phillies, it seems, have cracked the code for winning baseball games. Score a lot of runs. Don’t give up many. It’s amazing that nobody figured this out sooner.

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