Phils bounce back to upend Braves
Wearing Vukovich's No. 18, Helms belts key home run
PHILADELPHIA -- John Vukovich would have loved this.A sudden temperature drop from record highs thrust the Phillies and Braves into an October-like atmosphere at Citizens Bank Park, at least according to the 64 degrees at first pitch. And when Tom Gordon induced the final out of Friday's chilly 5-4 win and pointed to the sky, it's likely Vukovich could be seen smiling from the clouds. Then there's Wes Helms, whose two-run, game-tying, first-inning homer came while he sported No. 18 on his back, the digits worn by the longtime Phillies coach who before the game was posthumously inducted into the team's Wall of Fame. Helms' first home run as a Phillie came on March 7, a day before Vukovich passed away at age 59. "I thought it was going foul when I hit it," said Helms, who curled a pitch from Braves starer Chuck James' just inside the left-field foul pole. "It stayed fair for me and hit the net. It was close, but it worked out. The baseball gods take care of the good people in the game. Vuk was one of them. It turned out to be a good day all around." It didn't start out that way when Cole Hamels, the team's ace, surrendered four runs before Philadelphia had a crack at James. Hamels had allowed just 12 first-inning runs in his previous 23 starts. "[The wind] was leaving a couple pitches up and making a couple pitches die," Hamels said. "I tried to throw the same pitch in the same area and it would do two different things." "Hitters were getting ahead of him and were really aggressive," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "After that, he settled in and pitched a heck of a game. He gave up too many hits in the first. After that, he didn't give up any." Unfazed, the Phillies roared back on James, answering with a quartet of runs. Jimmy Rollins, Tadahito Iguchi and Pat Burrell started the inning with hits, providing the first run. A Ryan Howard sacrifice fly plated another, and Helms found the right spot in the netting of the foul pole to even the score. "Wes got a big hit that inning," manager Charlie Manuel said. "It was kind of funny the night we celebrated Vuk's 18 and Wes wears 18. Having the number in this game was good." Hamels (13-5) tossed six hitless innings after the first and got the win when the Phillies benefited from a Yunel Escobar error to score the go-ahead run in the bottom of the seventh. "What makes a pitcher isn't the stuff he throws up there," Helms said. "It's what he's made of mentally. He's shown me that he can battle back. He gives up four runs and we showed him we can battle back. He went out and showed us the Cole Hamels that we saw all year." Philadelphia's bullpen held off Atlanta from there, with J.C. Romero and Antonio Alfonseca getting through the eighth and Tom Gordon recording his first save since May 1. Gordon made it interesting by walking leadoff hitter Brian McCann on four pitches and starting with two balls to Kelly Johnson. Johnson swung at a pitch that might have been ball three and eventually grounded out. Gordon then retired the next two hitters. On an emotional night, the Phillies found their way back into second place, a half-game ahead of the Braves and three games behind the front-running Mets, who lost to the Marlins. The Padres beat the Reds, remaining a game ahead in the National League Wild Card race. If the Phillies continue playing like this, they may have to break out the shirt sleeves for more cold-weather games. "It's funny," Helms said. "I looked at [third-base umpire] Bruce Froemming and said, 'This is playoff weather.' If we make the playoffs, this is what it's going to feel like, so maybe somebody is telling us to get used to it."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.