By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report
The one sure way to get back in a pennant race is to beat the bad teams along the way and when you look at this streak of wins for the Phillies, they’re doing exactly they’re supposed to do.
Thanks to pitching of Cliff Lee and the hitting of Jimmy Rollins, the Phils won their seventh straight game in a 3-1 win over the Miami Marlins in front of 42,178 enthusiastic fans at Citizen’s Bank Park.
The Phillies (72-71) not only finished unbeaten during this current homestand, they moved to one game above .500. More importantly, they moved to within three games of the St. Louis Cardinals for the second National League Wildcard spot with just 19 games left in the season.
“It’s September, it’s just an exciting feeling where we’re finally getting things to where want to go and we’re right in the thick of things,” said Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard. “We want to take it one day at a time and try to get one victory at a time.”
It was the clutch hitting of Rollins that put the Phillies over the top in this game. With the score tied at 1-1 one on and two outs in the bottom of the seventh, hit a
two-run homer to the seats in right field to give the Phils they would not relinquish.
“He’s always been a good big-game player,” said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. “Jimmy can hurt you, he knows how to hit. He’s got a good stroke and you get guys who want to throw fastballs to him and he’s got enough patience to get good balls to hit.”
Rollins, who leads the team in home runs, has been on a tear lately. He has hit safely in 19 of his last 22 games with a .307 batting average and a .351 on base percentage. Rollins was 2-for-4 in Wednesday’s game against the Marlins.
“Last two or three years he’s been that way,” Manuel said. “He’s hit streaks. He’s had times where he’s had trouble hitting and then he gets hot and he starts hitting good. He’s been a streak hitter.”
Meanwhile, Lee had another outstanding start. He allowed just one unearned run on four hits with six strikeouts in seven innings of work. He said with the way the Phillies have been playing in September, the team is playing like it’s in a pennant race. So far, this month, the Phillies are 9-2.
“You play 162 games and a lot of times it comes down to those last three or four games,” Lee said. “Hopefully, we can put ourselves in position to play some meaningful games those last few. To get there, we just got to continue to play the way we have each day, put it behind us when it’s over and move on to the next one. If we continue to do that, we gotta shot to play some meaningful games.”
The Phillies will be on the road for the next seven games against the last place Houston Astros (Central Division) and the New York Mets, the fourth-place team in the National League East. Both teams, with nothing to play for, are looking to spoilers against contending teams like the Phillies.
“Every team is dangerous,” Howard said. “We just have to continue to go in and just trying to do what we’re and playing teams harder no matter who they are and what their record is and keep within ourselves and trying to win games.”