The Philadelphia Phillies' bats finally awakened during a nine-game road trip. Now the Phillies are hoping to solve their home hex, against a Kansas City Royals club that has had offensive woes of its own.
The Phillies, limited to nine runs while dropping all six games on their last homestand, scored 57 and hit .326 while going 5-4 on their trip. They wrapped it up by winning all three games in Arizona, their first sweep in the desert in 10 years and their first series victory since May 16-18 against Miami.
"When we left Philly, we became a different team," Philadelphia manager Pete Mackanin told reporters after Wednesday's 9-8, 10-inning victory over the Diamondbacks. "I'm hoping we can take this momentum and build on it."
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The Phillies are slashing .258/.307/.417 and averaging 4.2 runs in 42 games on the road, but their slash line is .213/.272/.336 in hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park, where they are scoring just 2.7 runs per game in 38 outings.
Third baseman Maikel Franco is representative of the team's struggles in its own back yard. He went 10-for-34 (.294) with two homers and eight RBIs on the road trip, and is slashing .296/.372/.570 with 10 homers and 28 RBIs away from home this season. At home his numbers are .187/.220/.511, with three homers and 13 RBIs.
The Phillies will send right-hander Jeremy Hellickson (5-6, 4.23) to the mound Friday, against Royals righty Ian Kennedy (6-6, 3.96). Both are coming off victories, Hellickson having beaten San Francisco his last time out and Kennedy having shut down Houston.
Hellickson went six innings to snap a personal four-game losing streak with a 3-2 victory over the Giants, allowing two runs (one earned) and five hits while striking out three and walking one. Kennedy worked seven innings in a 6-1 victory over the Astros, allowing one run and three hits while striking out 11 and walking one. His strikeout total was one shy of his career high.
"Every time out you try to do that," Kennedy told reporters afterward. "It doesn't happen every time, obviously, unless you're (Clayton) Kershaw or guys like him that just go out and punch everybody else out and go seven or eight innings every single time.
"That's kind of what pitching is, make everything look like a fastball. My curveball today was better than it has been. I was staying on top of it. It was a little bit better than normal. I was just throwing fastball, curveball for the most part of the game. My slider when I needed it was down and had some good break. I threw it in some good counts."
The Royals, who beat St. Louis 4-2 on Thursday, have won four of five. The defending world champions are hitting .277 as a team, the second-best average in the major leagues, but have scored just 314 runs, which ties them for 26th.
That owes to the fact that they are just 16th in on-base percentage (.325) and 15th in slugging percentage (.413).