One night after the veteran general manager blamed the Phillies' poor start primarily on the middle of the batting order, one of the culprits responded.
With a rare display of power.
Leftfielder Pat Burrell, the poster child for the club's struggles, slammed a pair of homers and knocked in five runs tonight, steering the Phillies to a 7-2 win over the Chicago Clubs.
Cole Hamels (5-1) pitched seven strong innings to notch the win, while lefthander Rich Hill (4-2) - who took a third-in-the-league 1.73 ERA into the game - took the loss.
Hill served three-run and two-run homers to Burrell, who equaled a career high for home runs and RBIs in a game.
Burrell, one of the subjects of general manager Pat Gillick's critical remarks on Thursday, entered the night with just one homer in 97 at-bats.
Perhaps Gillick lit a fuse. Or perhaps manager Charlie Manuel was right when he said before the game that Burrell had shown some positive signs despite going 2 for 28 on the Phils' recent 10-game road trip.
"He's hitting .308 with runners in scoring position; he's walking and getting on base," Manuel said before the game - and Burrell's 15th two-homer game of his career. "And in the San Francisco series and the Arizona series - other than when [the Diamondbacks'] Randy Johnson pitched - he hit the ball hard but didn't get many hits. I think he's going to get going any day. It's just a matter of time."
Hill had a 2-0 lead, thanks to homers by Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez, before Burrell's three run shot in the fourth. Aaron Rowand (walk) and Chase Utley (hit by pitch) had reached base before Burrell's homer to left-center.
Two innings later, after a walk to Utley, Burrell drilled a two-run homer to left, igniting a curtain call from fans who have made him their target over the years.
Watching the Phillies is like watching Groundhog Day. The developments keep repeating.
The Phils keep stumbling in April and keep huffing and puffing to make up ground the rest of the season.
Unlike the movie, however, there is no do-over. So tonight, for the umpteenth time in Manuel's tenure, the Phillies manager was talking about the importance of the current 10-game homestand, the importance of getting back to .500 and starting with a clean slate.
Stop us if you've heard this before.
"We need to have a good homestand. We need to get over .500 as soon as possible," Manuel said before the Phils improved their record to 16-19. "We have to start getting consistent. We have to step up."
The Phils need to go 7-3 to finish the homestand at .500.
Before tonight, Hill, a 27-year-old lefthander, had looked like the second coming of Warren Spahn this season. The 6-foot-5 Hill, a fourth-round selection in the 2002 draft, had allowed opponents to hit just .181 in his first six starts.
But he couldn't figure out how to retire Burrell, who had a single and two homers in his three at-bats against the lefthander. In his fourth at-bat, Burrell flied out to deep center against lefty Neal Cotts.
No matter. He still received a loud ovation as he trotted to left field.
Utley also had a productive night, reaching base three times and delivering a two-run single in the seventh. Utley has 23 RBIs in his last 20 games.