06/12/09 12:20 AM ET
Ibanez's blast gives Phils series win
Tater in 10th extends team's lead in NL East to four games
By Todd Zolecki / MLB.com
He sensed a resiliency in his Phillies teammates.
"It's a tough ballclub," Ibanez said following Thursday's 6-3 victory over the Mets in 10 innings at Citi Field. "[There's] a bunch of mentally strong guys in here. All 25. I've been on teams before where a lot of the guys are tough, and mentally tough. This team, everybody is mentally tough, and never give anything away. Even when you're down, you never feel like you're out. It's a lot of fun to be a part of. It's really an honor to play with these guys."
The Phillies came from behind to beat the Mets in extra innings on Wednesday and Thursday to finish their road trip through San Diego, Los Angeles and New York at 7-3 and extend their lead over the Mets in the National League East to four games.
The Phillies scored three runs in the seventh inning on Wednesday to tie the game, then Chase Utley hit the game-winning home run in the 11th. They scored a run in the sixth and seventh innings on Thursday to tie the game before Ibanez hit a three-run homer through a thick mist to right-center field to win it.
"You couldn't see it," Ibanez said of the homer. "There was a fog. It was murky out there. I hoped it got in the gap."
It went farther than that.
Ibanez is hitting .322 with 21 home runs and 58 RBIs. He is first in the Majors in RBIs and slugging percentage (.674), and second in home runs.
He is making himself an early candidate for NL MVP honors.
"You can write that if you want," manager Charlie Manuel said.
OK, why not? Ibanez is having a fine season to this point.
Of course, so are the Phillies. They are 35-23 (.605), the second-best record in baseball behind the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are 40-21 (.656).
Twenty of the Phillies' victories have been comebacks.
"My team always comes back," Manuel said. "That's what's good about them. That's them."
Left-hander Jamie Moyer pitched effectively over six innings, allowing eight hits and three runs and striking out three. He is 2-1 with a 3.77 ERA in his past five starts after going 3-3 with an 8.15 ERA in his first seven.
"I feel like I'm doing what I'm supposed to do," Moyer said.
The Phillies' bullpen continued to pitch well, too. Clay Condrey, Chad Durbin, Scott Eyre -- who injured his calf and may miss a few games -- and Ryan Madson threw four scoreless innings in relief. Over the two victories over the Mets, the relief corps threw 11 scoreless innings.
But it was Ibanez who shined again.
This has been quite a week for him. He learned on Monday that he leads NL outfielders in votes for the All-Star Game, which could lead to the first All-Star trip of his 14-year career. On Tuesday and Wednesday, he answered questions about an obscure blogger who wrote that performance-enhancing drugs couldn't be ruled out when discussing Ibanez's MVP-quality production.
Then there was Thursday. Ibanez went 0-for-4 before homering to cap an impressive road trip. In two of those at-bats, he struck out swinging, and he didn't look good doing it.
"I chased some pitches out of the zone," he said. "I wasn't feeling great today. Sometimes you wind up swinging a little too hard. I was swinging too hard. It's funny how it works. I swung too hard on [Pedro] Feliciano's ball [in the eighth inning], and it went four feet. Then I put a nice easy swing on the other one, and it ends up going out of the park. Hitting works in opposites, really."
And the off-the-field stuff?
"There is no off-the-field stuff," he said.
He is right about that. On Thursday he focused only on what is happening on the field and in the clubhouse.
"There's always a confidence. You can always feel it in the dugout," he said. "Not an arrogance -- a confidence. It's as if when anybody goes up there, you feel like that guy is going to be the guy. It's really neat to be a part of."
And it's just getting started.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.