MIAMI - When morale was at its lowest, approximately 46 hours before Delmon Young smashed yet another home run, Charlie Manuel attempted to justify his faith in this Phillies lineup. It was Monday, the atrocious Miami Marlins had just confounded his offense, and Manuel clutched at words.
"The history of Delmon Young," the manager said, "is he's a better hitter than what he's showing right now."
The Phillies departed Florida on Wednesday night with a series victory, and Young was a principal player. His second home run in as many nights sparked a 3-0 win. He initiated a rally with an infield single. He secured challenging plays in right field.
It created a humdrum night for Cliff Lee, who escaped a no-out, bases-loaded jam in the second and was never tested beyond that. Lee made the majors' worst offense in decades look like it with his 12th career shutout. Miami was blanked for the ninth time in 47 games.
"Outstanding," Manuel said.
The Phillies (23-24) can finally taste .500. They were 0-8 when trying to get within one game under .500 before Wednesday. There was little drama in the moment. The Marlins announced a paid attendance of 15,520, and maybe one-third of them actually showed. The Miami Heat played Game 1 of the NBA's Eastern Conference finals two miles away. Half of the TVs on the suite level at Marlins Park displayed the basketball game.
Now the Phillies rest before their first encounter with Washington, their once-jealous rival. The Nationals sprinted to 98 wins and dethroned the Phillies a season ago. The two teams will enter Friday separated by one game, and that represents a mild surprise.
Young ignited the Phillies for the second straight night. In the fourth inning, Miami righthander Kevin Slowey threw him an 0-2 sinker that floated over the heart of the plate. Young destroyed it. The ball landed almost exactly where his homer on Tuesday did, just to the left of the psychedelic home-run sculpture in center field.
The 27-year-old outfielder bashed a home run in his first Phillies at-bat April 30. He went 61 plate appearances before his second. The third happened four plate appearances later. He said Tuesday his timing was finally where he wanted. It showed.
And he can leg one out, too. In the sixth, Young tapped to second with two outs. Derek Dietrich charged, fumbled it, and Young reached on an infield hit.
"I'd prefer to get a clean hit so I wouldn't have to run so hard," Young said. "I'll take it."
Domonic Brown ripped a 395-foot triple to center that scored Young. Freddy Galvis, who could reprise his role as everyday second baseman as a result of Chase Utley's rib-cage injury, slapped a single to left that scored Brown. The rally would not have happened if Young had failed to hustle.
Young made a difference in the field, too. He caught a deep fly ball in the fifth and fired a strike to Jimmy Rollins at second base to complete a double play when Chris Coghlan attempted to tag up.
"I've always thought he would hit," Manuel said of Young. "I've been saying that. When we got him, our people felt like he could help us hitting. We always thought he was an RBI guy. And he's hit for a high average. And he can hit the ball out of the yard."
Two sublime nights will not justify weeks of Young's hitting .233. But if Manuel is pinning an offensive renaissance on Young, this breeds optimism.
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