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Phillies sweep Marlins on year's first wire-to-wire victory

MIAMI - Prior to yesterday's game at Dolphin Stadium, Charlie Manuel sat in the garish upholstered chair - yellowish-green and printed with different sketches of tropical plants - and fiddled with a pair of golden stress balls.

MIAMI - Prior to yesterday's game at Dolphin Stadium, Charlie Manuel sat in the garish upholstered chair - yellowish-green and printed with different sketches of tropical plants - and fiddled with a pair of golden stress balls.

The objects were meant to relieve the arthritis that the Phillies manager has in both hands, not the anxiety of two straight come-from-behind victories. Nevertheless, Manuel wasn't complaining 4 hours later when the Phillies capped off a three-game sweep of the Marlins with a 13-2 win that was their first wire-to-wire victory of a thus-far zany season.

"It's nice to get a big lead," he said. "It sure is."

It took 17 games, but the Phillies finally put together a complete outing, using the wildness of Marlins rookie lefthander Graham Taylor and the steadiness of veteran lefty Jamie Moyer to peek their heads over .500 for the second time this year. With slumping Jimmy Rollins out of the lineup for the second time this season, Shane Victorino and Eric Bruntlett drew walks to start the game and later scored on a single by Ryan Howard and a sacrifice fly by Raul Ibanez.

From that point on Moyer took control, holding the Marlins scoreless until Hanley Ramirez drove home Cody Ross with a single to centerfield in the fifth inning. At that point, the Phillies led 4-1 thanks to a two-run single by Chase Utley in the fourth.

Two innings later, however, the floodgates opened.

The Phillies scored four runs in the seventh and five in the eighth, batting around in both innings to seize control of the game.

Victorino drove in four runs during that stretch, two on a base hit in the seventh and two on a double in the eighth. Pedro Feliz, who snapped an 0-for-14 slump by going 3-for-5, scored runs on both hits. By the time the ninth inning started, Miguel Cairo had replaced Utley and Marlins rightfielder Ross had warmed up in the bullpen for the first pitching appearance of his major league career.

"It's always nice to have a comfortable lead," said Utley, who went 1-for-4 and increased his RBI total to a team-leading 16, "but it's not going to work out like that all year round."

The Phillies will take it, though, particularly after opening the series with a pair of dramatic come-from-behind victories in which they entered the ninth inning trailing. The win over the Marlins, who have now lost six straight games since opening the season 11-1, was the first time this season they did not trail in a game.

Heading into the series, the Phillies had dropped two straight games to the Brewers and were struggling to find any sort of offensive rhythm. Hampered by a herky-jerky schedule that left them with three off-days, two rain-outs and one rain delay in addition to a litany of pregame ceremonies celebrating both their World Series run and the life of late broadcaster Harry Kalas, the team never appeared in synch during the first 3 weeks of April.

Their performance against the Marlins, however, left many in the clubhouse thinking they had turned a corner.

"Just to kind of get into a rhythm and playing without a bunch of things that are going on, get more into a routine, we went out and played well this weekend," Howard said. "Now it's just a matter of trying to take it back home and continue that."

The Phillies have now played games on six consecutive days, their longest stretch thus far this season. With a three-game series against the Nationals starting tonight that is expected to feature both unseasonably warm weather and ace lefthander Cole Hamels on the mound tomorrow, the club appears to have a good opportunity to continue its run of success.

Manuel, in particular, had spent much of the first 3 weeks of the season bemoaning the various distractions that had plagued his team. Last week he criticized some of his players for allowing those distractions - particularly the ones involving their 2008 World Series win - to affect their focus.

Yesterday, as he sat in that chair and packed his belongings into a red duffle bag, he was optimistic that the Phillies had put their sluggish start behind them.

"Once we get into a routine and everything that we talked about, I think that's the whole key to us," said Manuel, whose Phillies are now in second place in the National League East, trailing the Marlins by 1 1/2 games. "The last 2 years we played 1 day at a time. We didn't worry about yesterday's game or tomorrow's. We played that day. Once we get into a flow where we are playing every day, that puts us right back into that mind-set. That's who we are and that's the way we like to play." *

For more Phillies coverage and opinion, read David Murphy's blog, High Cheese, at