ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - It will be 10 days before the Phillies can test themselves again at Citizens Bank Park, and try to reverse a trend that recently went from curious to alarming.
But back on the road tonight, the team instantly looked like contenders again, blowing away Tampa Bay, 10-1, in a World Series rematch at Tropicana Field. The win ended a season-high six-game losing streak.
The Phillies' haplessness at home is as difficult to explain as their dominance on the road. The 1-8 homestand that ended Sunday gave the Phils a 13-22 record in Philadelphia, a bizarre contrast to their major-league-best 24-9 mark in away games.
As if back in their comfort zone, the Phillies showed immediate life tonight against starter David Price. They scored six runs in a 40-pitch first inning, highlighted by John Mayberry Jr.'s three-run home run.
"That's huge for us, to score those runs," said manager Charlie Manuel. "That's the most runs we've scored in a while. Seems like seven or eight don't get it done, so our guys figured they'd get 10 or 12."
The Phillies added four in the fourth, capped by Chase Utley's two-run homer.
"For us to go out there and have that kind of a start, that was good for us," said Ryan Howard, who drove in a run in the first while still recovering from acute sinusitis.
The last time Price faced the Rays, he was a rookie reliever coping admirably with World Series pressure. Price pitched 31/3 innings against the Phillies last October, striking out four, allowing only a solo home run to Eric Bruntlett and earning a 21/3-inning save in Game 2.
As tonight's starter, Price showed a very different presence, and achieved a very different result.
"Price looked like a young pitcher," Manuel said. "He's going to be good . . . but he's going through major-league growing pains."
Jamie Moyer, who tied Bob Gibson with his 251st career win, noticed a mechanical problem in Price that Moyer has recently worked to correct in his own delivery. Moyer called it "drifting," meaning that when Price was in his windup, he allowed the top of his body to drift forward, rather than staying straight and tall over the rubber.
Moyer (5-6) has made many adjustments during this difficult year for him, but he thinks that drifting was one of the key issues he needed to correct.
"I've gone back and forth with different things all year: 'Is the ball down enough? Am I below the zone? Am I leaving it up?' " Moyer said. "I feel like I've been making so many adjustments to find my consistency."
With the exception of a 7-1 loss to Toronto last week, Moyer has been more consistent lately. He has lasted at least six innings in six consecutive starts, and allowed more than four runs just once. Tonight, he alternated between baffling the Rays and escaping jams, in part because he did not drift. Price, a promising lefthander half Moyer's age at 23, was not so lucky.
"We all drift to an extent," Moyer said, expressing a thought that could have applied to himself, Price, the Phillies this month, or life in general. "It's just a matter of keeping a handle on it."