A year ago, the Phillies were in sole possession of first place for just two days the entire season.

Phillies manager

Charlie Manuel

wants to be the chasee, not the chaser.

"I'd like to be Big Brown . . . and look back and see someone far behind," he said before the Phillies took over first place from the Florida Marlins last night. "I'd love to see us get a lead and see how we play with the lead. I'd like to see someone chasing us some time."

Last year, en route to the NL East title, the Phils didn't take over sole possession of first place until Sept. 28 - two days before the season ended.

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Second baseman

Chase Utley

drew strong praise from baseball lifer Manuel for his work ethic.

"The way he goes about the game, and his mind-set, he's the best player I've been around. Ever," Manuel said. "And I used to think that

Kirby Puckett

was the greatest thing since sliced bread.

"To see how Utley goes about his business, day in and day out, and how he prepares, it's tremendous."

Utley is among a handful of players who are threats to win the triple crown - tops in the league in average, homers and RBIs. The feat hasn't been accomplished in the NL since St. Louis outfielder

Joe "Ducky" Medwick

in 1937, when he hit .374 with 31 homers and 154 RBIs.

Manuel was asked if he thought another triple-crown winner would happen first in baseball or in horse racing.

"The horse," he said.

Hail, Lieby

The Phillies will honor

Mike Lieberthal

tomorrow for his 13 seasons with the club. The No. 3 overall pick in the 1990 draft, Lieberthal played with the Phils from 1994 to 2006 and hit .275 with 150 homers.

Lieberthal will sign a one-day minor-league contract and will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before tomorrow's game with the Marlins.

An all-star in 1999 and 2000, Lieberthal wanted to retire as a member of the Phillies, for whom he holds the franchise record for most games caught at 1,139. He spent last year with the Dodgers before announcing his retirement.

In 1999, Lieberthal became the sixth catcher in history to hit .300 with 30 homers.

Remembering the Babe

Yesterday was the 73d anniversary of

Babe Ruth's

final game, which was played against the Phils at Baker Bowl. Ruth was hitless in one at-bat as the Boston Braves dropped an 11-6 decision.

Et cetera

The Phils are a season-high eight games over .500. . . .

Shane Victorino

extended his hitting streak to a career-high 11 games. . . .

Ryan Howard

has 10 homers this month. . . .

Hanley Ramirez,

the Marlins' star shortstop, left the game in the bottom of the fifth because of a left-thumb contusion; he suffered the injury in the previous inning while fielding Victorino's grounder. . . . Outfielder

Jayson Werth,

on the DL with a strained side, is "on track" for returning to the club next Saturday, Manuel said. . . . The Phils last night had their 11th sellout in 28 home dates. . . . Entering last night, the Phils had stolen 38 bases in 44 attempts, a major-league-best 86.4 percent success rate.

Contact staff writer Sam Carchidi

at 215-854-5181 or scarchidi@phillynews.com.