Rollins ignites rally in win over Braves
Lieberthal's RBI single drives in eventual winning run
PHILADELPHIA -- Ryan Howard didn't need Bill Dancy's wave to see his future.The 6-foot-4, 260-pound first baseman knew he was heading home on Mike Lieberthal's two-out single and represented the go-ahead run. The journey wouldn't be easy, since Atlanta right fielder Jeff Francoeur already had a National League-leading 11 outfield assists. "I was going all the way," said Howard. "I tried to sneak a peek and see where the throw was, and try to juke. I saw the catcher running up the line, so I moved to the outside. Fortunately, it was up the line." Up the line just enough that Howard passed catcher Brian McCann as the throw arrived. Prepared to barrel into McCann, Howard was relieved that it didn't get to that point. That sixth inning proved to be the difference in Tuesday's 5-4 win over Atlanta before 24,311 at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies stayed one game behind the Marlins in the National League Wild Card race, with the Astros a half-game back in third. "I knew the kid had a good arm," said manager Charlie Manuel. "We were going to take a chance there. If the guy would have thrown the ball to the plate, he was out, but he didn't. The ifs always come into play." Howard's contributions led the parade of rookie contributions in this series that also includes Francoeur, Eude Brito and Gavin Floyd. The lefty slugger is fast becoming a star and also added his 17th homer in the second inning. Floyd started Tuesday's game looking every much as brilliant as Brito had the previous evening. The right-hander retired the first eight Braves before allowing a double to pitcher John Thomson. Floyd placed Philadelphia's 2-0 lead in jeopardy by pitching into a fourth-inning jam, when Marcus Giles walked and went to third on Francoeur's single. Floyd struck out Andruw Jones -- who has 49 homers -- and Julio Franco, and got Ryan Langerhans to fly to left. The Phils young righty wouldn't be so lucky in the fifth after loading the bases with no outs. He got two outs, but surrendered a RBI single to Francoeur and a three-run double by Jones. With things looking bleak, the spark ignited in the form of Jimmy Rollins. Down by two runs, Rollins' double started a two-out, two-run rally, and extended his hitting streak to 19 games. Kenny Lofton singled in Rollins and scored from first on a Chase Utley double. Tie game. "That started it," said Lieberthal. "That was the inning-breaker for us. It gave us confidence and the momentum back." Then came Howard. "That was something," said closer Billy Wagner, who notched his 34th save. "We never gave up. There were so many big plays in that game that got us to where we needed to be." The Phillies haven't been to the playoffs since 1993. Tuesday's win got them that much closer. "I was talking to David Bell about this today, because he's been there," Lieberthal said. "He was talking about the satisfaction you get by getting there. We're not there yet, but playing these games with a playoff atmosphere -- watching the scoreboard. It's exciting baseball. Right now, it's different than I'm used to. And it's a lot of fun."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.