When Charlie Manuel took the long, slow walk to the pitcher's mound with one out in the top of the eighth inning, the fans knew what was coming.

So even before Manuel reached his destination, the big crowd stood and gave Joe Blanton a long and well earned ovation.

"That's good," Manuel said. "That's what you want to see."

Amazing what a difference a few days, three well-pitched ball games and a little smoke from the bat of Jimmy Rollins makes.

Three days after being swept in Atlanta for their 14th loss in 18 games, the Phillies today completed a rousing sweep of their own, beating the archrival New York Mets, 2-0, in front of the 31st sellout crowd of the season at Citizens Bank Park.

The Phils entered the series tied for the top spot in the National League East with Florida and one game ahead of the Mets. They now lead the Marlins by a game and the Mets and Atlanta Braves by four, and everyone around the team seems to have exhaled a bit.

The recipe for this sweep was simple.

The Phils got excellent starting pitching, they played the defense you'd expect to see from the best-fielding team in the league and they got timely hits - especially from the slump-plagued Rollins, who showed serious signs of righting himself by going 5 for 11 with two runs, three doubles, a homer, three walks and five RBIs in the series.

Rollins declined to speak extensively after the game, but he did offer that "right now" he feels as good as he looks at the plate.

The world could live without Jimmy's comments after this one because, frankly, this sweep was all about starting pitching. The Phils got three quality starts (six or more innings; three or fewer earned runs) in the series. Newcomer Rodrigo Lopez started it off Friday night, Jamie Moyer followed on Saturday and Blanton put a wrap on it today.

In 20 innings, Phils starters allowed three runs. That, right there, will win you some games. And so what if the Mets have three big sticks (Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado and Jose Reyes) on the disabled list?

"We know their team is not at full strength," Ryan Howard said. "We've been in that situation before and had to go out and play. That's one of the things that happens in this game.

"For us, [the sweep] is big, especially coming off the road trip we had."

Rollins led off today's game with a homer off Mets ace Johan Santana, who lost for the first time in nine career starts against the Phils. He had been 4-0 with a 2.95 ERA in eight starts against them. Chase Utley also homered for the Phils, on an 0-2 fastball in the sixth.

Those two runs were enough for Blanton, who scattered four hits over 71/3 innings, and got a defensive gem from first baseman Howard to skirt trouble in the third.

Blanton (5-4) allowed just two baserunners through five innings. He hit a rough spot in the sixth as the Mets loaded the bases on a single, two walks and a sacrifice bunt. Pitching coach Rich Dubee visited Blanton before David Wright, who had entered the day ranked sixth in the NL with a .329 batting average, came to the plate.

"He just wanted to calm me down," said Blanton, who walked the previous hitter, Daniel Murphy, after jumping ahead by 0-2 in the count.

With the count 1-1, Blanton threw a sinker and got Wright to hit into a 4-6-3 double play. It was the key play of the game, followed closely by reliever Chan Ho Park's rolling another 4-6-3 double play to end the top of the eighth.

The Phils have seven more games in the homestand, starting with Cincinnati tonight. Maybe the sweep at home will mark the end of their struggles in their home ballpark. They had been 13-22 at home entering the series. And maybe the sweep will propel them to a hot streak as they try to recover from that recent 4-14 slide.

"In this game, things can snowball in a bad way and they can snowball in a good way, too," Blanton said.

The Mets, losers of eight of their last 10, would concur.

"We're struggling and [the Phillies] are playing well," Wright said. "They're getting good pitching efforts. Wins are hard to come by. I've said all along, we need to play nearly flawless baseball to win, especially against upper-echelon teams, and we're not doing that."

Contact staff writer Jim Salisbury at 215-854-4983 or jsalisbury@phillynews.com.