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04/22/08 2:06 AM ET
Ruiz sparks Phils' late rally over Rox
Utley makes sterling defensive play, homers in fifth straight
By Ken Mandel / MLB.com
DENVER -- It can't erase the memories of last season's first-round playoff exit, so Monday's 9-5 win over the Rockies at Coors Field win will help the 2008 cause. Using the sustained firepower from Chase Utley and Pat Burrell, and a timely slump-busting double from Carlos Ruiz, the Phillies found a way to overtake the team that ended their 2007 season by sweeping them out of National League Division Series. "Pay back," manager Charlie Manuel said. "Any time when you get in the playoffs and a team wins three games in a row, you've got to prove you can beat them." The Phillies did that by keeping the Rockies close enough, making key defensive plays and letting their offense do the rest. Taylor Buchholz retired the first two Phillies in the eighth, before Ryan Howard and Burrell singled and Pedro Feliz walked. Rockies manager Clint Hurdle brought in reliever Brian Fuentes to face Ruiz. Manuel thought about pinch-hitting with Chris Coste, but stuck with Ruiz. "I'm hunch guy," Manuel said. "I like Ruiz on Fuentes there." Ruiz entered that situation in a 2-for-17 funk, but stroked a double to right field. Two runs scored, giving the Phillies their first lead, 6-5. Jayson Werth added an RBI double in the ninth, and recently recalled T.J. Bohn iced the game with a two-run insurance double. "Most pitchers will go away with the game on the line," Ruiz said. "I was able to make contact. I was happy. I was aggressive, and got a good pitch to hit." Brad Lidge, pitching 15 minutes away from his Englewood, Colo., home, tossed the ninth, though the four-run cushion prevented him from recording his first career save at Coors Field. The comeback might not have been possible without a play by Utley that will make any highlight reel. Already leading 3-0 on a home run by Yorvit Torrealba -- he of the .500 batting average in the aforementioned NLDS -- the Rockies loaded the bases on two walks from starter Kyle Kendrick and an error by Feliz. Clint Barmes rocketed a shot that seemed destined for Utley, except the mound got in the way. Undeterred and nearly parallel to the ground, Utley snared the drive and fed Eric Bruntlett, who fired to Howard to complete the inning-ending double play. "The ball took a funny hop off the mound or something, and hung up in the air," Utley said. "I got lucky and caught it. I felt like I had a bead on it the whole time, but it took that hop. It worked out." The adjectives flowed. "Amazing," Kendrick said. "That changes everything. That's two runs and the inning is still going. I was trying to get a ground ball and he made the play of the game. After the inning, I thanked him." "Incredible," Werth said. "I watched it on replay. That's one of the best plays I've seen, ever. When it hit the mound and bounced, I thought I was going to have to make a play on it, then Chase came out of nowhere." Motivated by the defensive stand, Howard blooped a two-out single in the fourth and scored on Burrell's seventh homer, pulling Philadelphia within a run. Then Garrett Atkins, the best man at Utley's wedding, smacked a two-run home run to regain the Rockies a three-run lead. Werth energized the Phillies with an inside-the-park home run to lead off the fifth. He sent it over center fielder Willy Tavares' head and it got just the right carom. Werth never stopped running, sliding in easily. "A ball caroms like that, you run hard," Werth said. Werth conceded that he might have had an easier dash at any other park. "It's not the same at sea level, I know that," he said. "They had to call in an oxygen tank." Utley followed Werth with a conventional home run -- into the thin air in right field, continuing a torrid start with his ninth homer. He also tied a club record by hitting home runs in five straight games. But as the box score will show, Monday was about more than Utley. With Manuel mixing and matching the top of the order, the meat of the order came through. "Anytime you lose players like Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino, guys have to fill in and play if you're going to win," Werth said of the injured shortstop and outfielder. "You can't try to do more than you're capable of. You just have to go out and play."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.