Rollins helps Phils extend Wild Card lead
Shortstop a double shy of the cycle in rout of Giants
PHILADELPHIA -- Somebody recently asked Phillies manager Charlie Manuel if he thought Jimmy Rollins could still hit.
Manuel didn't miss a beat.
"Bet your sweet [butt]," he said.
Phillies right fielder Jayson Werth relayed Manuel's response to Rollins before he went 3-for-5 with a triple, home run and three RBIs in an 8-2 victory Wednesday over the San Francisco Giants at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies took a two-game lead over the Giants in the National League Wild Card race, but Atlanta maintained its 2 1/2-game lead over Philadelphia in the NL East with a victory over Washington.
The Phillies can keep the pressure on the Braves by sweeping the Giants with a victory Thursday.
"Bet your sweet [butt]," Werth repeated to Rollins after his three-run homer in the fourth inning handed the Phillies a 4-1 lead.
Rollins is hitting .297 (27-for-91) with three doubles, two triples, one home run, 12 RBIs, eight stolen bases and 13 runs scored in 21 games since July 22.
He has raised his average from .227 to .253 in that span.
"The last couple days, I've felt better," Rollins said. "I feel like my hitting area is starting to come to me. The plate is starting to feel like it actually is where it is, as opposed to the plate feeling like it's in the other batter's box and I was never close enough. And then before you know it, the ball down the middle is right underneath your hands. I got a little feeling back at the plate, and the results have showed up the last couple days."
Rollins singled and stole second and third base in the first inning and tripled and scored in the third inning to tie the game at 1 before he homered in the fourth. Rollins needed a double to become the ninth player in franchise history to hit for the cycle, but he flied out in the seventh inning and grounded out in the eighth inning.
The homer snapped the Phillies' streak of 49 consecutive innings without a home run, their second-longest drought of the season. The Phils went 68 consecutive innings without a homer from May 25-June 1.
"The triple that he hit down the line was a good pitch, but the single up the middle was probably a little more of the plate than I wanted, and obviously, the slider [in the fourth inning] wasn't a good pitch," Giants right-hander Matt Cain said. "With a guy like him who covers the plate really well, if you kind of leave it belt-high where he likes it, he'll take advantage of it."
Asked about Werth's comments before the game and after the home run, Rollins said he wasn't really sure what Werth was talking about.
"That's what J-Dub was talking about?" Rollins said. "I had no idea what he was talking about. He kept saying it, and I was like, 'What are you talking about?' After I hit the home run, he kept staring at me and kept saying it. I'm like, 'I really have no idea what you're talking about.'"
If it sounds like the Phillies' clubhouse is loose these days, it is. The Phils are 20-5 since July 21 to propel them into the thick of the playoff hunt.
To remain there, they will need more clutch hitting and more quality pitching. Before Rollins homered, Carlos Ruiz continued to come up with big hits. He singled to left field to score Werth to give the Phillies a 2-1 lead.
Ruiz, who also tripled in the second, has 34 RBIs this season. Twelve of them are go-ahead RBIs, which ranks second on the team. Only Ryan Howard has more with 21.
The Phillies tacked on a couple more runs in the seventh, including an RBI triple from Raul Ibanez. It was the first time since Aug. 9, 2008, that the Phils had three triples in one game, when Rollins had two and Werth had one against the Pirates. It was the first time since Sept. 7, 2006, that Philadelphia had three players who tripled in a game, when Chris Roberson, Jeff Conine and Shane Victorino each did it against the Marlins.
Domonic Brown then crushed a pinch-hit home run into the second deck in right field in the eighth.
Werth said a few teammates called the shot.
"It was a meant-to-be moment," Werth said.
Phillies right-hander Joe Blanton allowed two runs in 6 1/3 innings to pick up the win. Blanton is 2-1 with a 4.00 ERA in his last seven starts.
He allowed a leadoff home run to Andres Torres in the first inning, but retired 15 of 16 batters at one point.
The Phillies will need more of that from Blanton down the stretch. They will need Rollins to keep hitting, too.
Manuel is willing to bet he will.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.