They started erasing the seven-game deficit much earlier than they did in 2007 (late July, rather than late September), and the changing of the guard came while the Braves were falling apart against the Pittsburgh Pirates, of all teams. There wasn't much conventional about the switch for Philadelphia either on Tuesday night.
In a bizarre contest that saw the Phillies end as 8-7 victors over the pesky Florida Marlins, it seemed like they did everything wrong AND everything right in the game. As we've so often seen this season, Joe Blanton was not at his best, but he left with a lead. The Philly bullpen and defense coughed that lead up, but Shane Victorino and Placido Polanco worked some two-out magic in the bottom of the eighth inning. Ryan Madson was credited with a blown save, but wound up getting the win.
If you prefaced the explanation of this game with the fact that Chase Utley and Jayson Werth combined to go 0-for-8 while stranding five runners, chances are, most people would assume a loss. However, offense was what won this game for the Phillies, and they got plenty from everyone else. Victorino can deny it all he wants, but Charlie Manuel seemed to remember that his speedy right fielder excelled in the leadoff spot earlier this season when Jimmy Rollins was on the DL. He's now 5-for-10 since Manuel put him back at the top.
Ryan Howard dusted off his Mr. September cap, as he launched a solo shot the other way. Raul Ibanez did the same and fell a double short of the cycle. The offense as a whole put runs on the board in five different innings. It's fair to say Atlanta should be panicking right now.
The Phillies did hit an offensive lull recently while Utley and Howard rediscovered their timing after stints on the DL, but this one only lasted a week instead of two months. The full lineup is back and in a great position to cause some real damage. It's all divisional opponents from now until the end of the regular season, and the team's only objective is to add to its lead before hosting a three-game set against Atlanta Sept. 20-22.
And for the sake of the coaching staff's sanity, make the wins a little easier.
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