PHILADELPHIA — This feels remarkably familiar.
Jimmy Rollins is hitting baseballs everywhere, and the Phillies are making an improbable climb from a crater of a deficit in the standings. The same thing happened in 2007, when Rollins won the National League Most Valuable Player Award and the Phillies overcame a seven-game deficit with 17 games left to win their first NL East championship in 14 years.
Rollins had two big hits in Wednesday’s 3-1 victory over the Miami Marlins at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies have won a season-high seven consecutive games to improve to 72-71, the first time they have had a winning record since June 3. With the Cardinals’ 3-2 loss to the Padres, Philadelphia moved to within three games of an NL Wild Card spot with 19 games to play.
“We’re in it,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “I’d say we’re dead in it, yeah.”
It is a remarkable feat considering the Phillies stood at 37-51 on July 13 and traded Hunter Pence, Shane Victorino and Joe Blanton a couple weeks later. Also consider for a second that less than a week ago, the Phillies stood eight games behind the Cardinals.
“I saw the manager early today,” Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said. “He said they pitch better [than before]. They catch the ball better, and they hit when they have to hit. That’s the reason they’re back in the pennant race.”
Rollins is leading the way offensively.
The shortstop hit a leadoff single in the sixth inning to break up Marlins right-hander Josh Johnson’s no-hitter. He then scored on John Mayberry’s two-out single to center field to tie the game at 1.
Mayberry, too, has come on. He is hitting .341 (30-for-88) with five doubles, five home runs, 16 RBIs and a .995 OPS in his last 24 games. He hit just .229 (66-for-288) with 17 doubles, nine home runs, 26 RBIs and a .653 OPS in his first 107 games.
Pinch-hitter Pete Orr has just four plate appearances since the Phillies promoted him from Triple-A Lehigh Valley last week, but he came up with one of the biggest hits of the week when he hit a two-out single in the seventh inning against Johnson.
“It’s always fun when something like that happens,” said Orr, who is hitting .438 (7-for-16) in his career against Johnson.
The hit proved big because it brought up Rollins, who smacked a 2-0 fastball into the stands in right field for a two-run home run to give the Phillies a 3-1 lead.
Rollins took serious heat last month when Manuel pulled him from an Aug. 30 game against the Mets for not hustling on a popup. Coincidence or not, he is hitting .314 (16-for-51) with two doubles, four home runs, nine RBIs and a .934 on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) since.
“Jimmy can hurt you,” Manuel said. “Jimmy knows how to hit. He’s got a good stroke. You get some guys that want to throw some fastballs to him, he’s got enough patience to get some good balls to hit at times. He can definitely hurt you. You get the ball down on him, yeah, he’s got good pop.”
Rollins’ homer allowed Cliff Lee to improve to 5-7. Lee allowed four hits and one unearned run, walking one and striking out six in seven innings. He is 3-0 with a 1.73 ERA in his past six starts. Phillippe Aumont, one of the players received from Seattle when they traded Lee in Dec. 2009, pitched a scoreless eighth inning. Jonathan Papelbon pitched a scoreless ninth to pick up his 34th save.
The Phillies’ bullpen has thrown 16 1/3 scoreless innings.
“It was a well-pitched game from start to finish by both teams,” Lee said.
But like Manuel told Guillen before the game, the Phillies hit better, pitched better and played better defense. That is why they are back in the race.
“I mean, I think it’s possible [to make the playoffs],” Lee said. “No doubt. We’ve got a few teams ahead of us, but all we can control is what we can control. If we continue to play the way we have since the All-Star break, really, we’ve got a pretty good chance.”
By Todd Zolecki / MLB.com