Charlie Manuel keeps shuffling his lineup hoping to find a configuration that can offer a lot more run support for the Four Aces.
The manager's latest arrangement Saturday night gave the Phillies an entirely different look. Rookie Domonic Brown made his 2011 debut by batting second for the first time in his young career, while catcher Carlos Ruiz moved up to sixth in the order for just the third time in his career.
"I looked at the bottom of our lineup and figured I'd rather have Domonic getting four at-bats," Manuel said. "I put [Ruiz] there basically because I think he's started to swing better."
Like so many other combinations Manuel has tried in May, this one failed to provide an offensive explosion. Thanks to Cliff Lee's lively left arm, however, it produced a victory. The Phillies won a second straight interleague matchup with the Texas Rangers, beating Lee's former team, 2-0, at Citizens Bank Park.
The end to Ryan Howard's 0-for-23 slump was by far the best offensive news for the Phillies. Howard addressed his tumbling batting average before the game and sounded confident that he was close to escaping the worst slump of his career.
"I'm on the verge of switching around and hitting righthanded," Howard said, showing that his sense of humor remained intact. "You're even-keel about it. I'm not going to lie and say it's not frustrating. It's tough, because you go out there and sometimes you're trying to look for a break. I hit a couple of balls [Friday night] and a couple of balls in the Rockies series that for anybody else, those would have been hits."
Howard was referring to the overshift defense he encounters almost every time he goes to the plate, but he found the best way to beat it in the bottom of the second inning.
After being left at home plate in the bottom of the first when Brown was thrown out trying to steal second base for the final out, Howard led off the second by launching a 1-1 fastball from Colby Lewis into the right-field seats, giving Lee the only run he'd need to pick up his first win in seven starts since an April 14 game against Washington.
The Phillies, 28-17, maintained a 11/2-game lead over the second-place Florida Marlins in the National League East and finished with eight hits, their highest total in eight games. They have gone eight straight games without scoring more than three runs.
The game's only other run against Lewis came in the bottom of the sixth. In addition to batting Brown second and Ruiz sixth, Manuel moved John Mayberry Jr. to seventh in the order because he had gone into a little slump of his own.
After Raul Ibanez and Carlos Ruiz drew consecutive two-out walks, Mayberry delivered an RBI single to left field. And on this night, two runs were more than enough for Cliff Lee and Ryan Madson, who pitched a scoreless ninth for his ninth save.