By JACK McCAFFERY
PHILADELPHIA --- There was not going to
be a formal announcement, a ribbon-cutting, fireworks or spotlights.
If it happened at all, the Phillies' recovery would be subtle, quiet,
a reflection of a series of signs.
Like winning two of three in
Like winning two of three from Atlanta.
Like beginning a four-game series
against the Washington Nationals Monday with splendid starting
pitching, zesty top-of-the-order baseball and a 3-2 victory.
On a night when they learned that Ryan
Howard would be lost to them for up to two months, the Phillies
continued to hint at one thing: When their former MVP returns, it may
yet be to a playoff-minded team.
Such, at least, has been the message as
they have won four of their last five.
“People talk and they say 'This is
the biggest series,' and things like that,” Charlie Manuel said
before the game. “I say, 'Our philosophy is to play the same every
day.' Our No. 1 priority is the game, to win the game. I don't know
how big a series is. Every one of them is big. Every game we play
should be looked upon as big. Yeah, Washington is in our division and
things like that. We have a four-game series with them and I look at
it as that would be great for us to win. I am not thinking about
tomorrow. And I'm not worried about it.
“I am thinking about tonight and
hoping we get a good chance to win the game. That's what I am
The Phillies remain two games below
.500, a mark that they have found to be a force field, continually
pushing them the other way. But they are enjoying consistent
production from leadoff hitter Ben Revere, who supplied three hits,
scored twice and tormented the Nationals Monday with his speed.
That was plenty for former Nat John
Lannan, who methodically, calmly coaxed ground balls. His eight
scoreless innings were good enough for a crowd of 33,061 to stand and
cheer. And the Phils' recent winning habits may enough for the
general manager to consider sitting a little more still at the trade
“We look at our team,” Ruben Amaro
Jr. said. “Our team has been the best team in the second half other
than any team in baseball, other than St. Louis. I’m not exactly
sure what the record is, but we’re always very good, so I have to
take that into account.
“I also have to take into account
what has been happening. We have a progression right now. We’re
starting to swing the bats more consistently and getting a lot more
production out of guys. Ben Revere and Delmon Young are starting to
produce and do some things for us, and that is always a good sign.
Everybody wants everybody to produce right away, but you have to have
some level of patience and we’ll try to be prudent when we make
decisions here at the end of July.”
The top of the lineup worked to plan
and the Phillies took a 2-0 lead in the first. Revere and Jimmy
Rollins both slapped singles to right, then took the double-steal
route to second and third. After Chase Utley struck out, Domonic
Brown ricocheted an infield hit off Dan Haren, who would fall to
4-10, scoring Revere.
Michael Young walked, loading the
bases, and after Delmon Young whiffed, Rollins scored when Darin Ruf
walked. Carlos Ruiz left the bases loaded with a soft fly to right.
Revere and Rollins tormented the Nats
again in the sixth, Revere whistling a double into the left-field
corner, then sprinting home on a Rollins single.
Lannan allowed four hits in eight
innings, walking two and striking out four. He needed 109 pitches, 71
for strikes, to collect a dozen ground-ball outs and improve to 2-3.
Jonathan Papelbon struggled in the
ninth, allowing a single to Bryce Harper, a double to Ryan Zimmerman
and a sacrifice fly RBI to deepest center by Jayson Werth. That sent
Zimmerman to third, from where he would score on an Adam LaRoche
sacrifice fly to center.
But Papelbon forced Chad Tracy to sky
to shallow center for his 19th save.
“One game at a time,” Brown said.
“We have to look at it that way. If you don't, you put all the
pressure on yourself. We have to look at it one day at a time, make
sure we know who's pitching, and take it from there.”