PHILADELPHIA - A rare victory had the Philadelphia Phillies pulling pranks.
When the clubhouse opened Thursday after a 2-1 win over the Baltimore Orioles ended a nine-game losing streak, ace lefty Cole Hamels' locker was empty and his nameplate above it was gone. Since the rebuilding Phillies are trying to trade the three-time All-Star, it appeared perhaps they had struck a deal.
But it was just a joke.
No player owned up to the deed, though several guys were laughing about it. A team spokesman said he didn't know who was responsible for it.
Closer Jonathan Papelbon, a natural suspect, denied it.
"I don't know anything about Cole," Papelbon said.
For a team with the worst record in the majors at 23-45, the Phillies are trying to keep the mood light. During a 19-3 loss at Baltimore on Tuesday, the bullpen was phone off the hook while right fielder Jeff Francoeur pitched two innings.
"It feels good t o get off a losing streak," Papelbon said. "It's tough losing. Nobody wants to lose. Nobody likes losing. We do anything we can to prepare to win a game, but things haven't been going our way."
Ryan Howard hit a go-ahead, two-run homer in the sixth inning to help the Phillies avoid being swept in four consecutive series. They had lost 19 of 22 and were outscored 57-18 during their skid.
"It's what the situation is," Howard said. "You have to come with the mindset of trying to compete."
Manny Machado hit his third career leadoff homer and second in three games against the Phillies. But he struck out with runners on first and third and one out in the seventh.
Jake Diekman (1-1) pitched a 1-2-3 sixth in relief of Sean O'Sullivan to earn the win in his first game back from a brief stint at Triple-A.
Luis Garcia struck out Machado and Travis Snider to escape a first-and-third, one-out jam in the seventh that followed a throwing error by second baseman Chase Utley. Snider struck out four times swinging and has fanned in five straight at-bats, going back to Wednesday.
Ken Giles tossed a scoreless eighth and Papelbon finished for his 13th save in 13 tries.
Howard hit his 12th homer, connecting on a 1-2 pitch from starter Bud Norris (2-5) to put Philadelphia ahead for the first time in its four-game, home-and-home series against Baltimore.
The Orioles outscored the Phillies 29-7 in three wins.
Norris allowed two runs and five hits in six innings. O'Sullivan struck out a career-high seven in five innings, allowing one run and four hits.
"We had some good swings, but we were just hitting the ball to the wrong parts of the park," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.
The Phillies have won 26 straight games that Giles and Papelbon entered with a lead. They are 30-1 in such situations since Giles made his debut on June 12, 2014.
Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy has an 11-gam e hitting streak in which he's batting .390 (16 for 41).
Orioles: OF Adam Jones (shoulder) missed his third straight game.
Phillies: Hamels will miss Friday's start against St. Louis because of a mild, right hamstring strain. Righty Phillippe Aumont will be recalled from Triple-A Lehigh Valley to take his place.
Orioles: RHP Mike Wright (2-2, 4.13) makes his sixth career start in the opener of a three-game series in Toronto. After not allowing a run in 14 1-3 innings in his first two outings, he has given up 13 runs in 14 innings over his last three starts.
Phillies: Aumont will make his first career start when St. Louis visits to start a three-game series Friday night. He started 10 games in the minors this season, going 3-4 with a 2.55 ERA. He was 1-5 with a 6.13 ERA in 45 relief appearances for Philadelphia from 2012-14.
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