PHILADELPHIA -- This should make Pat Burrell feel better about not making the National League All-Star team. Big home runs, like the left fielder's three-run poke in Philadelphia's stay-in-first-place 6-3 win over Arizona on Sunday, have a way of soothing disappointment. Judging by Burrell's smile and curtain call, he's over it. "It's one of those things where I'd like to go," Burrell said. "But the focus is on winning games."More
Emboldened after tying the game off D-backs starter Brandon Webb, the Phillies began the eighth inning with singles by Chase Utley and Ryan Howard off reliever Chad Qualls. Burrell worked the count to 2-2 before depositing a slider into the left-field seats. The 31st sellout crowd of 45,277 wanted a curtain call from Burrell on an 87-degree afternoon. The win guaranteed the Phillies of a first-place finish at the All-Star break for the first time since 2004, when they led the Braves by a game. Ryan Madson worked the eighth for the win, on a day when Cole Hamels matched Webb for seven innings. Hamels was helped by bad Arizona baserunning in the seventh to escape a jam. With runners on first and second and one out, Orlando Hudson drove the ball to right, and Stephen Drew started back to second, thinking Geoff Jenkins would make the catch. When Jenkins couldn't make the play, Drew could only reach third, halting Conor Jackson at second. Hudson was halfway to second and fell down, making him an eventual easy second out after running out of the baseline. After a brief meeting on the mound with manager Charlie Manuel, Hamels went after Mark Reynolds and struck him out on his 98th and final pitch of the afternoon. Then came Burrell, the non-All-Star. "He's been hitting home runs, game-winning stuff like that all year long," said closer Brad Lidge, who drove to New York after the game for his second All-Star appearance. "I think they both should be there." Both, meaning Burrell and Hamels, who received a no-decision and finished the first half at 9-6. Though a trip to the Midsummer Classic would be nice, Hamels has other items ranked higher on his baseball to-do list. "Making the playoffs and being in the World Series is the only true goal, besides the small goal of making the All-Star Game every year," Hamels said. To that, the Phillies reached a small milestone by ending Part 1 in first place. Part 2 will be a fight where anything can happen -- see the 2007 Mets. The Mets and Marlins are right behind the Phillies, and Philadelphia begins the second half with a road trip through New York and Miami. "Any time we're in first place is a big thing," Manuel said. "In Spring Training, I said we had to stay close to the lead or have it. I heard people say we squandered the lead, but that's not true. There are four teams who can win [the NL East]." The Phillies know they must play better baseball to return to the playoffs. They need to pitch more consistently and shake a team-wide hitting funk that has gripped the club since June 13. "We had some bumps, but we're still in first place," Hamels said. "The second half is about upping the ante." Added Jimmy Rollins: "Most importantly, we're in first place. Everybody has to look up to us. It would be nice to have a three- or four-game cushion, but being in first place is being in first place. They have to win in order to get you." Now they will rest for four days. An hour after belting the game-winning home run, Burrell packed up golf clubs for a trip home, rather than Yankee Stadium. While watching Utley and Lidge, Burrell will smile knowing his 23 home runs are a big reason why his team is first place. "He's put up tremendous numbers," Hamels said. "When you're on a first-place team, you have to look at the guys who got you there, and he's the guy who's kept us in line to winning games. That's what you have to look at. It's unfortunate that he wasn't able to make it [to the All-Star Game]."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less