TORONTO - Asking a baseball player to root out the underlying causes for the various idiosyncracies of a season is often like asking an ocean wave to explain why it rises and falls and, eventually, crashes onto the beach. Somewhere, there is a reason, the explanation of which is better left to folks who don't have to concern themselves with the actual task at hand.
And so it was with a shrug that Jayson Werth answered a question regarding his remarkable production against his old Blue Jays team, which yesterday helped propel the Phillies to their second straight win over Toronto, this time 5-4 in come-from-behind fashion.
"I don't have an answer for that," said Werth, who reached base in five plate appearances yesterday, extending his streak to 10 straight, as the Phillies won their first back-to-back games, and their first series, since June 10-11 against the Mets. "I don't know what it is. It's not like I enjoy playing against them more than anybody else."
Whatever it is, the Phillies were glad to have it this weekend, when Werth and Chase Utley helped deliver them from the ashes of a potentially disastrous trip through interleague play and salvage their standing atop the National League East.
Werth, who broke in with the Blue Jays and played a total of 41 games for them in 2002 and '03, hit two home runs in the Phillies' 10-0 victory Saturday.
Yesterday, Utley went 2-for-4 with a double and a two-run triple as the Phillies overcame an early 4-1 deficit to improve to 39-34.
Utley is 8-for-20 against the Blue Jays this season, and Werth is 9-for-21 with five home runs and nine RBI.
Both were key factors in the four-run fourth inning the Phillies produced against lefthander Brian Tallet. With two runs already in and Carlos Ruiz on first base, Werth hit a two-out single to left and Utley followed with a triple to right-center that drove in the tying and go-ahead runs.
The rally negated the three home runs Toronto managed off Jamie Moyer, two of them solo shots by second baseman Aaron Hill. Moyer allowed five hits, walked two, and struck out four while throwing 82 pitches in five innings. But thanks to the Phillies' rally and a bullpen that held Toronto scoreless for the final 4 innings, he evened his record at 6-6 even as his ERA climbed to 6.05.
The win was the Phils' second straight since manager Charlie Manuel held a lengthy team meeting Friday night following their 11th loss in 13 games, allowing them to finish an otherwise horrid showing in interleague play at 6-12.
"I'm kind of glad it's over with," Moyer said. "We're playing a little bit better. We've just got to do it on a consistent basis."
Whether they are able to succeed in that quest will depend a great deal on whether an injury-ravaged bullpen returns to the form it had a year ago when it led the National League in ERA. Yesterday, with Ryan Madson pitching out of trouble in the eighth and Brad Lidge recording his 14th save of the season in the ninth, it took an important step.
Chan Ho Park pitched two perfect scoreless innings of relief, showing no ill effects from the bruised knee he suffered when he was hit by a line drive Friday. Madson overcame a fielding error by shortstop Eric Bruntlett that squandered a potential inning-ending doubleplay and put runners at second and third with two outs by getting pinch-hitter Russ Adams to pop out. Then, Lidge recorded his first save since being activated from the disabled list Thursday, allowing a bunt single and a walk before getting three straight outs for his 14th save.
The Phillies did squander some opportunities, going 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position, including 0-for-2 in the first inning with runners on second and third. In the sixth, Ruiz was caught stealing third with another man on first and one out.
"I didn't like Ruiz' baserunning today," Manuel said. "Moyer gave us what he had, made it through five innings. And then Chan Ho Park came in and pitched really good. Madson did a good job, worked out of a jam there. At the end there, we were hanging on for dear life, but it worked out." *