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Phils keep fighting

The Phillies will close out a three-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals tonight at Citizens Bank Park, and if you want to get an early read on how the contest might play out, pay attention to the first inning.

The Phillies will close out a three-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals tonight at Citizens Bank Park, and if you want to get an early read on how the contest might play out, pay attention to the first inning.

It has been a virtual crystal ball so far in the series.

On Friday night, the Phillies clubbed seven hits and scored five runs in the first inning, and the offense never stopped in a 13-3 victory.

Yesterday, Cole Hamels maneuvered his way out of trouble in the top of the first and Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard smacked home runs in the bottom of the inning.

That proved to be the theme of the day: Hamels survived several pockets of turbulence, and the offense, led by Pat Burrell with four RBIs, kept putting up runs. In the end, the Phillies treated another sellout crowd to a 10-4 victory, keeping franchise loss No. 10,000 at bay in the process.

The Phils are 2-0 since the all-star break. They have cranked out 37 hits and scored 23 runs in the two wins.

That's what a team has to do when it hopes to stay in contention with a pitching staff that sports the worst ERA in the National League.

"There's an old saying, 'You've got to win the best way you can,' " manager Charlie Manuel said. "If you score runs, that's how you've got to learn to win, I guess. When I was in Cleveland, we used to outhit people. There's nothing wrong with that. During the season, you can win some games that way. The postseason is where the pitching really shows up. It seems like the team with the best pitching usually comes out on top."

The Phillies are 46-44. They entered yesterday four games back in the NL East and 41/2 back in the wild-card race.

The Phils lead the league with 479 runs, so they have the offense to stay in the chase. But that 4.88 ERA remains a source of worry.

Rollins, who is hitting .294 with 18 home runs and 57 RBIs, was asked whether he believed that the Phillies had enough pitching to be a playoff team.

"We'll see," he said. "Based on the first-half numbers, the answer, obviously, is no. Now, in the second half, if we get some pitching and we get in, then I guess it's a yes. It's a team effort. It's a combination. We know we have to score, so that's on us. They have to keep guys off base and keep it under control to make our offense important. If we do that, then we will have enough pitching."

The Phillies have been a good second-half team the last two years, going 43-30 in 2005 and 45-30 in 2006 after the break. Both times they surged into the wild-card lead in September, only to trip on their shoelaces.

So far, the Phils are acting as if they want to be a good second-half team again. And offense hasn't been the only strength in the first two games. The pitching has contributed. Rookie Kyle Kendrick delivered seven innings of one-run ball Friday night. Yesterday, Hamels did some bending (10 baserunners) but limited the breaking (four runs) in six innings of work.

It's nice pitching with that safety net called run support.

"It's good to know if you give up a double here or there it's not going to affect the outcome of the game," said Hamels, who improved to 11-4. "You don't get as paranoid."

After the two first-inning homers off Cardinals starter Mike Maroth, the Phils got two runs in the second on Chase Utley's double and one in the third on Aaron Rowand's homer, his second of four hits. Burrell had a two-run double in the fifth and a two-run single in the sixth. In his last seven games, Burrell is 10 for 19 with three home runs and 10 RBIs. He has boosted his batting average from .201 to .227.

Notes. The Phillies reached an agreement with first-round draft pick Joe Savery, according to a baseball source. Savery will be in Philadelphia for a physical early this week and will officially sign for $1.37 million. The lefthander is expected to report to single-A Williamsport by the end of the week. . . . Reliever Tom Gordon, recovering from a strained rotator cuff, will throw in the bullpen today. If all goes well, he could be activated tomorrow. Brett Myers, recovering from a shoulder strain, threw a 25-pitch bullpen session yesterday in Clearwater, Fla., and reported no problems. Myers said that he will pitch to hitters Tuesday and that he hopes to pitch in a minor-league game a couple of days later. He is targeting July 24 for his return. . . . The Phils optioned reliever Anderson Garcia to triple A and recalled righthander Clay Condrey for his fourth stint with the team this season.

See a photo gallery of the game at http://go.philly.