07/16/09 11:15 PM ET
Veterans Moyer, Ibanez carry Phillies
Slugger swats pair, Howard hits 200th to back lefty's gem
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
At least that's what could be taken away from the Phillies' 4-0 win over the Marlins on Thursday, when 37-year-old Raul Ibanez cranked out two home runs and 46-year-old Jamie Moyer pitched seven masterful shutout innings to increase the defending World Series champions' lead in the National League East to five games.
Thanks to Ibanez and Moyer -- two veterans signed to new contracts this offseason that certainly raised some eyebrows around Philadelphia -- the Phils won their sixth straight game and 10th in their past 11 to secure their biggest division lead all season.
"Moyer amazes me," said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, whose team owns the best road winning percentage in the Majors. "And Ibanez is 37 years old, but he's in outstanding shape."
On a night when two grizzly veterans continued to stake their claims as significant players in today's Major Leagues, an up-and-coming one made history.
That man was Ryan Howard, the Phillies' 29-year-old first baseman who became the fastest player to 200 career home runs -- in terms of games played -- with a solo home run in the sixth.
Howard has been in a Phillies clubhouse long enough to know how Ibanez and Moyer go about their business, and long enough to know age is just a number.
"If you can still go out there and perform, you can perform," Howard said. "People use age when they want to. When you're out here, it doesn't matter if you're 19 or 46. If you're out here and you can perform and you can make things happen, then you belong out here."
The Phillies got on the board in the top of the second, when Howard hit an infield single to the right side and Ibanez hit a 2-1 fastball from Marlins starter Chris Volstad just over the NL scoreboard in left-center field for 2-0 lead.
Then, with one out in the fourth, Ibanez came back with a solo shot -- this one to right-center -- for his 12th career multi-homer game and third this season. The Phils' left fielder now has 24 on the year.
Ibanez and Moyer were teammates in Seattle from 2004-06, and the thought of the two of them hooking up with another team in '09 and having a night like this was far from their rationale.
"I never thought that far ahead, really," Ibanez said. "But I did remember somebody calling Jamie and Edgar [Martinez] old when I was there, and I remember thinking, 'I hope somebody can one day call me old in baseball.'"
Howard hit a solo shot of his own to give him 23 on the year and make him the fastest player in Major League history to hit 200 career dingers by doing it in 658 games -- beating Ralph Kiner, who did it in 706 games.
That rocket to right field gave Howard's team a 4-0 lead, but with the way Moyer was dealing, it was hardly necessary.
The crafty left-hander retired the first 12 batters he faced and saw his perfect game end with a Jorge Cantu single to lead off the fifth. The Marlins, however, wouldn't get much more than that. Moyer finished giving up just that one hit and one walk while striking out four in his seven scoreless frames.
During the Phillies' past 12 games, the starting pitchers -- a weak spot on the roster pretty much all year -- have combined to post a 2.76 ERA with nine quality starts.
"[Moyer] says, 'If I can put the ball where I want it, I can get them out,'" Manuel said.
"I believe that. And I just sit there and watch him, and I watch him yo-yo balls up there and stuff, and he gets it done."
Moyer's opponent, Volstad said, "He did a great job. He throws everything in the strike zone. The ball is moving every which way. It looks like [he has] a sinker, a cutter, a curveball, you never know which way it's going to break. It keeps hitters off balance."
The 23-year veteran retired the last eight hitters he faced to move to 13-2 in 15 career games against Florida and 8-0 at Land Shark Stadium.
"I don't see them being as aggressive this year as they have in the past," Moyer said about the Marlins. "There's some patience that they've shown. Maybe not tonight, but they've shown it to me. And I was quite aware of that going into the game."
Moyer is also quite aware of the Phillies' current control of the division.
But his time in the big leagues has made him aware enough to know that it still doesn't mean much in mid-July.
"Five games up is five games up," said Moyer, whose team has won six straight at the newly named Land Shark Stadium and seven of its past nine against the Marlins overall. "We still have three games to play here. Today's nice to win the first game back and try to recreate some of the momentum that we took into the break. Beyond that, there's a lot of baseball left to be played, so anything can happen."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.