PHILADELPHIA — It seems with each passing day, another player takes issue with Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg.
Tuesday night, it was Cole Hamels' turn.
Hamels was visibly upset with Sandberg as he was pulled after allowing a game-tying home run in the eighth inning, and instead of defusing the situation, ignored questions and prematurely ended his postgame interview.
That left Sandberg with questions to answer before Wednesday night's 8-4 win at Citizens Bank Park over the Washington Nationals that gave the Phillies the three-game sweep and their third series win in a row over playoff-bound teams.
Hamels was the fourth player in less than two weeks who publicly disrespected the manager or questioned his decisions. Just as Sandberg did with the three players before him, he had a conversation with Hamels to clear the air.
Sandberg approached Hamels for a brief talk and didn't think it was a big deal. He explained what Hamels told him during their conversation.
"He was upset with what had happened in the seventh inning and he was upset with the leadoff home run when he had a chance to go deep in that game," Sandberg said. "But he knew that he was in there for an at-bat at-a-time type of situation. And the home run erased that possibility."
The player who started the entire fiasco — Kyle Kendrick — was on the mound for the Phillies on Wednesday night.
There were no signs of frustration toward Sandberg this time, but it wasn't because his outing was any better than his last one.
The first inning has plagued Kendrick all season and things were no different Wednesday. The right-hander gave up a single, a double and a walk to the first three batters he faced and quickly found himself down 1-0.
For as bad as the inning started, Kendrick got through the rest of it allowing only one more run, on another single. Still, Kendrick raised his league-leading first-inning ERA from 9.69 to 10.00 with his performance.
This time, however, Kendrick had a reason for his rough start – he may have been tipping his pitches. Jimmy Rollins made Kendrick aware of the issue after the first and Kendrick made an adjustment.
It looked like it worked. Kendrick got through the rest of his night giving up just two more runs over the next five innings, one on a mammoth home run in the fifth by Denard Span that reached the second deck in right field.
Rollins put the Phillies on the board and cut the Nationals lead in half in the bottom of the first with his 17th home run of the season. The shortstop had a big night for the Phillies, reaching base four times. He went 2-for-2 with a run, two runs batted in and two walks.
The Phillies got their first lead of the night in the bottom of the sixth. Marlon Byrd led off the inning with a single and Domonic Brown narrowed Washington's advantage to 4-3 with a double. Nationals starter Doug Fister looked like he would make it out of the inning without any more damage after getting two quick outs, but the Phillies brought in Grady Sizemore to pinch-hit for Kendrick.
Sizemore fell behind 0-2, but deposited the third pitch he saw into the right field seats for his first career pinch-hit homer and a 5-4 lead.
The outfielder has been used in a number of pinch-hit situations since joining the Phillies although it's not necessarily getting easier.
"I don't know if you're ever comfortable," said Sizemore. "It's hard coming off the bench when you're cold. You just try to get in there, get a feel for it and do what you can."
Even though he might not be completely comfortable as a pinch hitter, his manager likes what he's given the team.
"He's a quality at-bat, that's for sure," said Sandberg. "He puts the bat on the ball. He has done a nice job against some left-handed pitching in a pinch. He gives a quality at-bat. He really does. He stays right in there. And obviously he can play the outfield."
Sizemore will be a free agent at the end of the season and his play of late is good enough to make him an everyday player but that's not all that will determine his job status next year.
"It just depends on where he is on the health side of things as far as the ability to play a number of games," said Sandberg. "That's what that would have to depend on if he was a part-time guy like that out there, he'd be a quality guy."
That's not something Sizemore is concerned about just yet. He wants to focus on finishing this season both strong and healthy.
Byrd helped the Phillies extend their lead to 7-4 in the bottom of the seventh, homering after Ryan Howard began the inning with a single. It was Byrd's 24th of the year, which tied a career high.
The Phillies finished the homestand 7-2 and have won 14 of their last 20 home games, outscoring opponents 96-74.
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