THEY ALL COUNT the same in the standings, but some wins are better than others.

And when a team is trying to crawl out of a crevice as deep as the one the Phillies dug for themselves, quality is sometimes just as important as quantity.

There's something special about a home run to win a ballgame, particularly when it's hit by a nondescript player like Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz; and it comes a night after a team rallied for an exciting, come-from-behind victory; and it happens in front of a charged-up home crowd swelled by a walk-up sale of 11,300.

Since the Phillies got off to that dreadful 3-10 start, this city has been looking for signs that fortunes were changing.

Last night's 4-3 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers, highlighted by Ruiz driving a two-out ninth-inning fastball into the South Philadelphia night, might just be it.

"I think when you have exciting wins like that, I feel like those are the things that get teams on their way," manager Charlie Manuel said. "I feel like that's when you come together and when everybody wants to play."

Maybe if the Phillies hadn't scored six runs in the eighth inning on Monday to stun the Brewers, this wouldn't be such a big deal.

Maybe if they hadn't won four of the first five of this 10-game homestand, it would have been simply a fun win.

But again, when you've been down as far as the Phillies were and spent the better part of a month just trying to get your neck back to the surface, you want to see a string of fortunate events, unusual things that make you feel as if things really are going your way for a change.

"When you're playing good, things have a way of happening," Manuel said. "That's always when teams grow."

This had all the makings of a typical Phillies disappointment.

Despite missing numerous chances to add extra runs, the Phillies took a 3-2 lead into the top of the ninth.

But Brett Myers, who had been 4-for-4 in save opportunities and had closed out the eighth inning for starter Adam Eaton, served up a first-pitch home run to Brewers catcher Johnny Estrada.

With the score tied and Greg Dobbs and Abraham Nuñez going out meekly to start the bottom of the ninth, the 41,258 fans had to be thinking they had seen this way too many times before.

Then Ruiz electrified Citizens Bank Park by lining a Derrick Turnbow fastball over the left-center wall.

"I think that's very important," Manuel said of a guy like Ruiz, who isn't considered a star player, delivering the big blow. "That sends a message to our ballclub of how good that we can play and how good our players can be.

"The more people that get involved in it, the better your team is going to be."

To go back to reality, the Phillies are still only 19-20, but a win tonight over Milwaukee would get them to the .500 mark for the first time this season.

As it is, they are the closest they've been to .500 since losing the season opener to the Atlanta Braves.

Under normal circumstances, the .500 mark isn't a place to be excited about.

But when a team digs itself a hole as the Phillies did to start the 2007 season, the building-back process is marked by increments.

The first step simply was to stop the bleeding.

The Phillies did that when they ended April by winning seven of 10 games.

Then, once your head is out of the abyss, you start looking at the magical even mark - the point where wins clearly count as steps forward instead of erasures of previous steps back.

It has taken a while, but that's where the Phillies are.

Obviously, there's still a ways to go.

Even with their recent success, they haven't made up much ground on the Braves, who are a half-dozen games ahead of them, or the Mets, who lead the Phils by 5 1/2 games in the National League East.

But once you get back to .500, you can at least start looking at getting back into the race in a serious manner.

"Every day, we talk about going out and playing that game," Manuel said of the Phillies' approach to recovery. "Take it one at a time.

"This was a good win, and the guys are happy, but when we leave the ballpark, we start thinking about [tonight's] game, and we try to win that.

"That's what we talk about. So far we've had a good homestand, but we've still got some games to go."

Sure, but after two straight exciting wins, maybe things are starting to turn in the Phillies' favor.

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Send e-mail to smallwj@phillynews.com. For recent columns, go to http://go.philly.com/smallwood.