SAN DIEGO - A baseball lineup that is clicking in unison can be a beautiful thing to watch, and over the past 2-plus weeks, the Phillies' lineup had been exactly that.
In the 17 games leading up to last night's tilt with the Padres, a stretch in which the Phillies were 13-4, they hit .287 with a .363 on-base percentage and averaged 5.8 runs.
Although the bulk of the damage has been inflicted by the usual suspects - Raul Ibanez and Ryan Howard combined for 16 home runs and 38 RBI during that 17-game stretch while Chase Utley hit .339 with 12 RBI - perhaps the most significant contribution has come from the bottom of the order.
It is there that third baseman Pedro Feliz (.328 with eight RBI and six runs in 17 games) and catcher Carlos Ruiz (.340, two home runs, eight RBI) have provided a much-needed jolt.
"Everybody is doing their job," shortstop Jimmy Rollins said. "When [a hitter in the bottom of the order] gets up there and he is up there with two outs, it's instrumental to get that hit if they are going to give him something to hit. Turn the lineup over with a possible RBI as opposed to making that out and the pitcher leading off."
Success at No. 7 and 8 also sets up RBI opportunities at the top of the order for Rollins, who last season, his eighth as a regular, drove in fewer than 60 runs for just the third time. Since struggling through the first month of the season, he has raised his batting average to .230, with 18 runs batted in. In the 17 games leading up to last night's, he was hitting .282 with seven RBI.
"He definitely gets more RBI chances when they get on," manager Charlie Manuel said, "and that's a big key."
"I could see us eventually going back to 12, but right now we've got a situation where I feel like with Myers being down, you've got young pitchers here, we definitely might need 13 pitchers,'' Manuel said. "I feel like it's best for us.''
As for Romero, whose 50-game suspension for a positive drug test ended yesterday, Manuel said he will be comfortable using the lefthander in high-pressure situations even in the early going.
It has been a difficult task this season, thanks in large part to the offensive production of Pedro Feliz, who entered last night hitting .299 with 27 RBI. Dobbs entered the game with just four starts.
"I make the statement all the time, he needs to play more," Manuel said. "I've got to try to start working him in."
The move paid off. Dobbs, who entered the night hitting .159 in 39 overall at-bats and .143 in 24 pinch-hit at-bats, drove in a run in the first inning on a sacrifice fly and later hit his second home run of the year, a solo shot in the fifth.
Righthander Kyle Drabek will make his first start for Double A Reading against the Aeros in Akron, Ohio, in an Eastern League game tonight. He was originally scheduled to pitch tomorrow . . . Television ratings for Phillies broadcasts on Comcast SportsNet in April and May were up 24 percent over last year from 4.5 to 5.6, the network said. * While Greg Dobbs entered last night with two hits in three career at-bats against Padres ace Jake Peavy, Charlie Manuel's decision to give him the start at third base was mostly on a desire to get Dobbs playing time. Even after J.C. Romero is activated before tonight's game, the Phillies likely will stick with 13 pitchers and four bench players. The club sent outfielder John Mayberry Jr. back to Triple A Lehigh Valley Monday, giving them 13 pitchers for last night's game. Once Romero is activated, young lefty Sergio Escalona is likely headed back to the IronPigs. But the addition of a fifth bench player does not sound imminent, thanks to some uncertainty over how much production the Phillies will get out of the rotation spot formally occupied by Brett Myers.