THE PHILLIES clubhouse had begun to empty, the high-octane emotion from the game that had just ended started to subside.
Brett Myers sat in front of his locker. Carlos Ruiz crossed the red carpet and stuck out his right hand. They shook hands. Shook their heads, too.
You couldn't make this stuff up.
Adam Eaton, who had become a convenient magnet for stray discontent after signing a 3-year, $24.5 million free-agent contract, made his best start of the season and walked off the field to a standing ovation.
Myers, who seems to have gone from Opening Day starter to set-up reliever to dominant closer almost as quickly as Jimmy Rollins can circle the bases on an inside-the-park homer, suffered his first blown save.
Ruiz redeemed him, sending the Citizens Bank Park crowd of 41,258 into delirium by delivering a two-out, bases-empty, game-winning home run that lifted the Phillies to their second straight improbable win over the Milwaukee Brewers, 4-3.
"Y'all are seeing what the offseason hype was all about," Myers said. "We're finding our heart."
Well, the Phillies are still a game under .500, still far off the pace in the National League East. They have, however, won five of their last six, the last two in dramatic fashion.
Monday night they exploded for six runs in the bottom of the eighth, doing much of the damage against Derrick Turnbow, who had been one of the league's most dominant relievers.
Last night they couldn't hold a late lead. Prince Fielder's 12th home run of the year pulled the Brewers within one against Eaton in the eighth and former Phillie Johnny Estrada - there had been rumors he might come back to the organization that signed and developed him last winter before the Arizona Diamondbacks traded him to Milwaukee - homered off Myers leading off the ninth.
"I can't be perfect every time," Myers said. "I'd like to be, but I made a terrible pitch. I was shooting for 88 straight [saves]. But I hope I get back on the hill again [tonight] with a chance to close it out."
Until all the late fireworks, Eaton was the story of the night. He came into the game with a 7.43 earned run average.
"We're 4-4 in the games I've started, but that's not good enough," he said. "I need to have some quality starts. Command-wise, this was definitely my best start of the year. I was working ahead for the most part.
"They are a very good hitting team. I knew I had to bring my 'A' game. The mechanical changes we made earlier in the season are starting to take hold."
He smothered a Brewers offense that was leading the league with 50 homers and was third in runs scored. He pitched 7 2/3 innings, allowing two runs - just one earned - on four hits. He threw 63 of his 99 pitches for strikes.
For the second straight game, manager Charlie Manuel started a lineup with centerfielder Aaron Rowand leading off and Rollins batting third. And it quickly paid dividends. Rowand led off the bottom of the first by working a walk against Brewers starter Claudio Vargas, went to third when Shane Victorino doubled and scored on Rollins' sacrifice fly.
The Brewers came right back to tie the score on an unearned run in the top of the second. With two outs and nobody on base, third baseman Craig Counsell walked and stole second. Having Counsell run with the pitcher at bat seemed like a curious decision since, if he had been thrown out, Vargas would have had to lead off the next inning.
It worked out, though. Vargas lifted a high fly ball to right that turned Victorino around, then glanced off his glove for an error as Counsell scored easily.
The Phillies took the lead again when Greg Dobbs led off the fifth with a homer and added an insurance run on a strange play in the sixth. Rollins was on third and Chase Utley on first with one out when Pat Burrell hit a comebacker to the mound. Vargas turned and threw to second, attempting to start an inning-ending doubleplay, but umpire Tom Hallion ruled that second baseman Rickie Weeks didn't tag second. Burrell was out 1-4-3, but Rollins scored on the play.
That run turned out to be important, because it gave the Phillies a chance to win it with a run in the bottom of the ninth.
Eaton said he enjoyed the reception he got. "The fans obviously appreciated the way I pitched," he said. "Here it takes a little more sometime.
"This team hasn't won the World Series since 1980. The city hasn't had a championship since [the Sixers in] 1983. The fans are kind of reluctant to hand over their hearts to us until we show them something concrete."
The last two games are at least a start.
Last night's game, which featured dollar hot dogs, drew 41,258. That included a walk-up crowd of over 11,300, the highest since April 5, 2002, when the Phillies still played at Veterans Stadium . . . Brewers manager Ned Yost was ejected by plate umpire Larry Vanover in the top of the fourth. He came out to argue after leftfielder Geoff Jenkins began to complain about a called third strike. *