MATHEMATICALLY speaking, there was little reason why Charlie Manuel should have sent Geoff Jenkins to the plate in the bottom of the sixth inning yesterday afternoon.
Trailing by two runs with a man on first and two outs, the Phillies manager was determined to pinch-hit for righthanded-hitting So Taguchi, who started in rightfield and was batting eighth.
At his disposal was dependable reserve infielder Greg Dobbs, who entered the game hitting .444 with 11 RBI as a pinch-hitter. Dobbs was hitting .459 with men on base, .353 with two outs in an inning, and .357 against righthanders like Doug Waechter, who had taken the place of lefty starter Andrew Miller at the start of the inning.
Yet when Waechter was taking his warmup pitches at the start of the frame, Manuel noticed that he was keeping the ball down in the strike zone. So with Pat Burrell on first and a chance to tie the game, he called on Jenkins, a dangerous low-ball hitter who was 0-for-9 as a pinch-hitter this season.
The move, like most of the ones Manuel has made this season, worked. After taking a changeup for a ball, Jenkins sent a 1-0 fastball sailing into the seats in rightfield for a two-run homer that tied the game and set the stage for Burrell's two-run double in the seventh that lifted the Phillies to a 7-5 victory.
"We just go up there when he tells us . . . he can handle that part of it," said Jenkins, who has just one other pinch homer in his career. "But there are going to be situations when we come off the bench where we have to come up big. It doesn't necessarily need to be a home run, but maybe it's a walk, a base hit, whatever it needs to be."
Like that sixth-inning switch, everything came up aces for the Phillies, who improved to 33-25 and regained a half-game lead over the Marlins for first place in the National League East.
After Phillies lefthander Jamie Moyer allowed four runs in the third inning, including a three-run home run that was Mike Jacobs' second homer of the game, they rode their gloves and their bats to rally from a 5-1 deficit.
Chase Utley was once again Chase Utley, hitting a home run for the fourth straight game and making a remarkable defensive play that robbed Jeremy Hermida of a base hit. The home run, a solo shot, came in the third inning off Miller and landed somewhere near the visiting bullpen in right-centerfield. It improved his major league-leading home-run totals, both overall (20) and against lefthanders (11), and put him on pace for 55 home runs, which would break the record for home runs by a second baseman (42) shared by Rogers Hornsby (1922) and Davey Johnson (1973).
Utley now has a hit in seven straight games and has hit home runs in six of his last seven. He also has 17 RBI in his last seven games.
The defensive play came in the fifth as Utley chased down a ball to his right, then threw to first across his body and against his momentum to end the inning.
"That's Chase Utley," said first baseman Ryan Howard, who made a couple of nice plays of his own, including a diving catch of a bunt attempt by Jacque Jones in the seventh inning, as Moyer, the bullpen, and the defense combined to hold the Marlins scoreless for the game's final six innings. "Nothing can surprise me right now with the way Chase is playing."
Moyer picked up his fourth straight victory, and his fifth in his last six starts, improving to 6-3 with a 4.65 ERA. He allowed four of his five runs on Jacobs' two home runs, a solo shot in the second and a three-run blast in the third.
But he faced just 12 batters in his final four innings, getting doubleplays after allowing singles in the sixth and the seventh. Moyer, who threw 90 pitches, finished with five runs on seven hits with three strikeouts and no walks.
Jenkins' two-run homer tied the game at 5-5, and Burrell hit a two-run double with two out in the seventh off righthander Logan Kensing to drive in the eventual winning runs.
"It was 2-2, and the guy throws pretty hard, so you've got to be ready for the fastball," Burrell said. "He threw one kind of down and I was able to just squeak it down the line there."
Tom Gordon walked the first batter he faced in the eighth, but after a quick pep talk from Jimmy Rollins - "Throw strikes, Babe Ruth's dead," the MVP shortstop told him - he retired the final three batters he faced. That set up another dominant ninth inning from Brad Lidge, who struck out two of the three batters he faced and recorded his 13th save.
The Phillies won two out of three from the Marlins, and now host Cincinnati before embarking on a road trip that will take them through Atlanta, Florida and St. Louis. *
For more Phillies coverage and opinion, read David Murphy's blog, High Cheese, at http://go.philly.com/highcheese.