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MIA@PHI: Brown's solo shot extends Phillies' lead

PHILADELPHIA -- Domonic Brown's plate appearances lately have looked a lot like his plate appearances in Spring Training.

That should have the Phillies excited.

Brown hit a solo home run to right field in the fourth inning of Friday night's 4-1 victory over the Marlins at Citizens Bank Park. He is hitting .382 (13-for-34) with two doubles, three home runs and eight RBIs in his last nine games, which the Phillies hope is a sign he is beginning to hit his stride as an everyday player in the big leagues.

"I'm being a little more aggressive now, especially with two strikes, trying to stay hard up the middle," Brown said. "Just reacting."

Brown entered the season confident he would enjoy success. He hit .356 (32-for-90) with four doubles, seven home runs, 17 RBIs and a 1.047 OPS in Spring Training to earn the everyday job in left field. But things started slower than he would have liked with a .206 average and .623 OPS on April 23.

Delmon Young can appreciate the pressure on Brown to produce. He also is a former top Minor League prospect. But he remembers as a rookie with Tampa Bay in 2007, Rays manager Joe Maddon pulling him into his office on May 13 and telling him not to worry, he was going to play every game the rest of the season, despite his .222 average.

The Rays were not trying to win a pennant. They were trying to develop prospects.

That is not the case in Philadelphia.

"Over here, there's no rebuilding," Young said the other night. "They are trying to win a championship every year, so there's no time for him to come up and struggle. So it's good for [Brown] to have a big Spring Training and get off to a solid start. ... The younger guys coming up in Tampa knew we were going to be there the whole time. Over here, when teams are trying to win, they need people who are going to produce, so if you aren't producing, they are going to find someone else, and if you have an option, you're going to be sent down. So, I was not in the same situation."

Phillies right-hander Jonathan Pettibone improved to 2-0 with a 3.24 ERA. He allowed one run on five hits and struck out three in 6 1/3 innings. He had no problems with the feeble Marlins offense, which is the worst in baseball.

The Phillies are 3-0 in his starts.

"I just wanted to make a statement when I got up here -- just staying aggressive," Pettibone said. "I've been able to do that since I've been up here."

Pettibone got some help early when Ryan Howard homered to right in the second to make it 1-0. Howard has homered twice in as many games, and he has four homers and 12 RBIs in his last nine. He also is hitting .348 (16-for-46) with five doubles, four home runs, 13 RBIs and a 1.090 OPS in his last 13.

"Had been going up there swinging," Howard said of his turnaround. "Probably now just kind of laying off some of the bad stuff and trying to make them get it up a little bit."

The Phillies scored another run in the second to make it 2-0, when Ben Revere singled to score Carlos Ruiz. Chase Utley's homer in the third made it 3-0. After Donovan Solano homered for Miami in the fourth, Brown's homer extended the Phillies' lead back to three.

Howard and Brown have homered together in consecutive games. They both have five home runs this season.

Maybe they could get into a little Home Run Derby competition?

"Ryan has a lot of power," Brown said. "I'm just trying to stay in there."

"That's all good with me," Howard said. "As long as we're going out there trying to contribute, I'll take it. We can go out there and try to hit a home run every day if that's the case. He's going out there, he's swinging well and I think as a team, we're starting to collectively pick it up a little better."

If the recent additions of Young and Ruiz provide a lift, and hitters like Howard and Brown continue to produce like they have, the Phillies could start to look a little more like the team they expected to have when Spring Training ended in March.

"With Delmon [Young] and Chooch [Carlos Ruiz] coming back, it's definitely a different team," Howard said. "Guys are going to get hot. I don't think we've played anywhere near our capabilities. And I think we're starting to work that way."

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