MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. - Ryan Howard touched home plate in the third inning, the first Phillie to do so in 30 innings and five days. As he walked back to the dugout, he rotated his fists in a circular motion, as if to say, "Keep it going."
Of course, Raul Ibanez, who had tripled Howard home, was stranded on third. But the Phillies were awakened from an offensive slumber that felt like an eternity.
They snapped a five-game losing streak with a 3-2 victory over the Marlins at Sun Life Stadium on Friday.
The go-ahead run scored on a groundout in the seventh by Chase Utley, who was 3 for his last 22. But he put the ball in play with a runner on third, something that was an impossible task for the Phillies in the five previous games.
The offensive outburst all started with Howard, whose own struggles were emblematic of the team's. Howard had been 2 for his last 19 with seven strikeouts before singling through the left side of the shift to begin the third inning.
He easily scored when Ibanez smoked a liner to center that skipped along the wet outfield grass and past Marlins centerfielder Cameron Maybin and all the way to the wall.
A heavy weight was lifted off the Phillies' shoulders.
Before Ibanez's triple, the gruesome details looked like this:
30 straight scoreless innings, spanning 119 plate appearances by Phillies players in between runs.
38 innings without scoring against an opposing starter - from Daisuke Matsuzaka last Saturday to Chris Volstad on Friday.
Scoreless in 49 of 50 innings, the only runs coming off Boston mop-up man Ramon Ramirez in the ninth inning of last Sunday's game.
Howard scored the first Phillies run since Ross Gload hit a two-run home run against the Red Sox last Sunday. The Phils tied a club record with three straight shut outs. But they avoided becoming the eighth team in major-league history to be shut out in four consecutive games.
They did become the first team to go scoreless for 30 innings since the Atlanta Braves went 31 innings without a run June 18-23, 2007.
In the fourth, Howard followed scoring a run by driving in another. With two outs, Utley drew a walk. He stole second base, just his second steal of 2010 on his third attempt. Howard singled up the middle to score Utley and tied the game at 2.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel - always one to favor hitting - said the team's overall game stumbles when the offense does. Scoring runs infuses energy, Manuel said. In the last five games, the Phillies had waited too often for the runs to come to them.
Utley stealing was an example of making something happen - and it paid off.
The starting pitching had struggled because of the extra pressure of no run support.
But Kyle Kendrick pitched six quality innings - the only mistake coming on a fielding error of his own doing. In the third, Kendrick retired the first two Florida batters but allowed back-to-back singles to Chris Coghlan and Gaby Sanchez.
Hanley Ramirez hit a soft comebacker to Kendrick, who cleanly fielded it but short-armed the easy throw to first and it skipped by Howard, down the right-field line. Two runs scored.
And considering the way the sputtering Phillies' offense had operated of late, it felt like a crippling error at the time.
Finally, that trend was reversed.