SAN DIEGO - Want to test the patience of a member of this Phillies lineup? It's easy, really. Just suggest that the barrage of home runs that annually keeps them near the top of the league leaders has some sort of correlation with the cozy confines of their home stadium. You don't even have to say it, or even imply it. Mention the words "home run" and "Citizens Bank Park" in close enough proximity, and, voila, you will get it: maybe a roll of the eyes, maybe a shake of the head, maybe even an outright declaration that the whole concept is just a figment of the public's media-driven imagination.
Or, maybe, the hitter in question will point to games like last night, when back-to-back home runs by Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in the fifth inning helped lift the Phillies to a 5-3 win over the Padres.
Petco Park, Citizens Bank Park - heck, maybe even Central Park. The home runs Utley and Howard hit last night would have been home runs anywhere.
And thanks to their epic struggles with runners in scoring position - they finished the night 3-for-18 in that department - they needed them.
Jimmy Rollins and Raul Ibanez doubled to lead off the first and second innings, respectively, but both failed to score.
The Phillies scored two runs in the third to take a 2-1 lead. But, in the fifth, even after Utley led off with a blast deep into the seats in left and Howard followed with a long drive that landed well beyond the 396-foot sign in dead center, they had the bases loaded with one out and failed to further pad a 4-1 lead.
They stranded 11 runners, the fourth time in the last eight games they've left 10 or more standing on base.
"Utley and Howard, they can hit them anywhere," said manager Charlie Manuel. "[But] when we hit doubles and leadoff innings and don't move runners, our guys, you can go ask them, they know that's not good baseball.
"If you go back and look, our power production, it pretty much evens out. I know in the last 3 years it's been close."
Thanks to another solid outing by Joe Blanton, not to mention Brad Lidge's 13th save, the Phillies' rendered moot their faulty situational hitting. The righthander earned his third straight victory, improving to 4-3 by holding the Padres to six hits on three runs in seven innings, two of the runs coming on back-to-back home runs by Adrian Gonzalez and Scott Hairston in the sixth.
The performance came on the heels of his most impressive outing of the season, a 5-3 win over the Marlins in which he struck out a career-high 11 in seven scoreless innings.
"It's one of those things where if one person isn't around everybody else kind of has to pick it up a step and hopefully we can do that and get on a nice role and let the offense keep swinging and hopefully we can win some games," said Blanton.
The Phillies have won four straight and are now 13-4 since losing six of eight games from May 6-14. Not surprisingly, the surge has coincided with a resurgent pitching staff that has felled its collective ERA from 5.36 to 4.92 since May 14.
But the biggest reason the Phillies improved to 29-20 - the earliest they've been nine games over .500 since reaching the mark on May 12, 2001 - was again an offense that doesn't seem to mind where it plays this season, so long as it is playing on the road.
While there is no question that the Phils' home stadium is power-hitter friendly, the statistics this season don't necessarily back the idea the construction of their lineup plays any less big on the road.
In 23 away games this season they have hit 37 home runs, averaging one every 25.5 plate appearances. In 26 home games, they have hit 34, averaging one every 29.5 plate appearances.
The Phillies entered last night hitting .279 with a .483 slugging percentage on the road. At home, those numbers were .250 and .450.
History does suggest they perform marginally better in the power department at home - 225 home runs at home over the last 2 years compared with 202 on the road, a difference of roughly one home run every seven games.