August 18 Philadelphia Daily News
It was the sixth inning of a mid-August night that gave them nothing more than the luxury of having one less game to overcome. Afterward, two members of the team insisted they would leave it at that, even though they are now the official leaders in the wild-card standings.
But at the very least, the Phillies‘ closer-than-it-sounds 9-3 victory over the Giants last night provided a preview of the type of late-season baseball this city has come to expect.
“Obviously, at this point, our goal is to win this division,” said second baseman Chase Utley, who went 0-for-5 in his first game back from a 7-week stay on the disabled list. “I think we have an opportunity to do that. We’re right there, and we’ll see what happens.”
Victorino’s two-run double didn’t quite prove to be the difference – Carlos Ruiz’ bases-loaded double in the eighth sparked a five-run inning that gave Chad Durbin plenty of insurance to close out the ninth – but it did serve as the latest indication that the Phillies are again intent on owning the last couple months of the season.
There is still plenty of baseball left to be played, something Charlie Manuel reminded the media again last night. Asked if he took any satisfaction in the Phillies’ new status as the wild-card leader, the manager said, “Not at all,” and then shook his head and laughed at the latest incarnation of a question he already had swatted down earlier in the day.
Manuel has maintained a public calm amid a gamut of swings in public sentiment this season, from the sort of post-World War II exuberance that accompanied their 8-2 start to the Great Depression about their early-summer offensive slump. He isn’t about to stop now. Not after beating the Giants to break a tie atop the wild-card standings. Not after winning for the 19th time in 24 games and remaining within 2 1/2 games of Atlanta in the NL East.
But for at least one night, everything was as it was presumed to be back when the season started, starting with Utley’s return to a lineup that was without him for 43 games. Jimmy Rollins had a game-tying hit, knocking a two-run single to centerfield in the fifth inning to knot things, 2-2. Victorino added two runs in the sixth, following a single by Polanco and a double by Werth with his drive to left-center. Roy Oswalt allowed two runs and three hits in the first inning – including a solo home run by former Phillie Pat Burrell – and one run and three hits in his final six.
The Phillies outlasted bedeviling lefty Barry Zito, jumped on one of the best bullpens in the National League, and improved to 67-51 by beating one of their potential competitors for a spot in the postseason.
“Barry got to a point where he was throwing a lot of strikes and had some quick innings, but when he did get in trouble we didn’t let him off the hook,” Rollins said. “And that was very good, something we did a lot early in the season, maybe just the first month. But when you get to that point to where you can wear a pitcher down and make him throw pitches, he’ll start missing a lot more of his pitches he wants to get over, and they become hittable. Balls start flattening out, curveballs start hanging a little bit, and they become more hittable. So we did good in that regard, but the hitting with runners in scoring position was really big tonight.””
PhillySportsCentral.com – Philadelphia Phillies news, rumors, blog, & message board discussion forums