Phils grab Wild Card lead, but eye division
Rollins, Victorino, Ruiz deliver to back Oswalt's solid effort
PHILADELPHIA -- It is the name the Phillies shall not speak:
National League Wild Card.
They do not want to talk about it. They do not want to think about it. They want to win their fourth consecutive NL East title. That is why nobody said they cared about taking the Wild Card lead Tuesday following a 9-3 victory over the Giants at Citizens Bank Park.
"Not at all," manager Charlie Manuel said.
"No, not really," right-hander Roy Oswalt said. "We're trying to win our division. You win that, you guarantee you get in."
"There's so much baseball to play," shortstop Jimmy Rollins said. "Yeah, we're leading the Wild Card, but that thing can get crazy. The only sure way in is by winning your division. ... Focusing on the Wild Card, it's a little early for that."
The Phillies, who have a one-game lead over the Giants, remain 2 1/2 games behind the Braves in the NL East, so they will have to continue winning to take the division. They are 19-5 since a loss to St. Louis on July 21, posting the best record in baseball over that span.
Oswalt overcame a shaky first inning to allow just six hits and three runs in seven innings to pick up his second win with the Phils. Rollins had a big two-out single to left-center field in the fifth to tie the game at 2. Shane Victorino doubled to left-center in the sixth to score two runs for a 4-2 lead.
The Phillies scored five runs in the eighth to kill any chances of a Giants comeback. The eighth included a double from Carlos Ruiz that scored two runs. He is hitting .361 (26-for-72) with eight doubles, three home runs and 20 RBIs in his previous 18 games.
Oh, the Phillies also welcomed Chase Utley back to the lineup.
"I felt OK," said Utley, who went 0-for-5. "I think there's a little room for improvement, but I think I felt pretty good."
Giants left fielder Pat Burrell felt pretty good after he hit a solo home run to left in the first inning to give the visitors a 2-0 lead.
Burrell stepped into the batter's box to a warm reception. He played for the Phillies from 2000-08, helping them win the 2008 World Series. Some fans cheered Burrell as he rounded the bases, but he heard some boos when introduced during subsequent at-bats.
Maybe fans figured they offered him too much encouragement.
"The people here just have been incredible to me for the last 10 years," Burrell said. "[The homer] would have been a little better if it came in the ninth. I'm happy to hit one like that, but obviously, I'd rather us win the game. We fell apart there at the end."
Before the Giants fell apart in the eighth, Oswalt took care of business. He retired 17 of the next 19 batters he faced after Burrell's homer.
The Phillies' offense came alive, too. Mike Sweeney, who is wearing Burrell's old No. 5, hit a leadoff single to center field in the fifth. Giants left-hander Barry Zito walked Carlos Ruiz with one out. Oswalt successfully bunted the runners to second and third after bunting a couple balls fall to give him two strikes.
Rollins followed with a two-out line-drive single to left-center to score Sweeney and Ruiz to tie the game at 2.
The Phillies took a 4-2 lead in the sixth when Placido Polanco, who had four hits, hit a leadoff single to center field. Jayson Werth doubled into the left-field corner to put runners on second and third with no outs. Victorino followed with a double to left-center field to score both runners to give the Phillies the lead.
The crowd roared as the Phils went ahead.
Tuesday did not feel like October, but it felt like October is just around the corner.
"This is what I missed," Oswalt said. "Hopefully something magical will happen this year and we'll get to the postseason and to the World Series."
One way into the postseason is the Wild Card.
Just don't talk to the Phillies about it.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.