BOSTON - On eight pitches during the fourth inning of Sunday's 5-3 victory over the Red Sox, the Phillies scored four runs, matching their total from the previous two games in Boston combined.

They strung together five hits, all off Tim Wakefield knuckleballs that did not dance the right way. Ryan Howard doubled. Jayson Werth singled. Raul Ibanez homered. Ben Francisco doubled. Juan Castro singled.

"That was real big," manager Charlie Manuel said. "We needed to win a game."

No one would say Sunday's win was the end of the Phillies' slump because there have been more than a few flashes just like this during four weeks of mediocrity. Plus, after the fourth inning, the Phillies had only one hit. Not until the Phils can actually maintain some sort of success over a lengthy span will anyone in the clubhouse breathe easier.

But the Phillies smiled in the cramped visitors' clubhouse at Fenway Park as they dressed for a train ride to New York. Music blared. Some laughed. Even a few beers were cracked open.

"When you're going the way we've been going," Howard said, "it just takes one little spark to get things going. We'll just try to build off that."

It was the sixth time in 24 games that the Phillies scored more than three runs. The win snapped a six-game losing streak at Fenway Park dating to 2004. And it gave the Phillies at least some momentum heading to Yankee Stadium for a rematch of the 2009 World Series beginning Tuesday.

Yes, it's just one win and probably came about only because of Cole Hamels' outstanding effort on the mound. The Phillies lefthander allowed one run in seven innings and displayed life on his fastball rarely seen since the 2008 season that resulted in his coronation as World Series MVP.

But - the first two games at Fenway notwithstanding - the Phillies have had good pitching during these four weeks. Too many times it was wasted by the hitters.

Sunday demonstrated that it can take an unassuming play to kick things into gear. Howard had been hitless in seven career at-bats against Wakefield. In the fourth, he took a knuckleball high for ball one. Then he fouled off two pitches low in the zone. The fourth stayed high and inside. Howard ripped it down the right-field line for a double.

Werth smoked the second pitch he saw for a single up the middle, scoring Howard. Then, on the first pitch he saw, Ibanez drilled a 64-m.p.h. knuckler over the right-field fence. It was his first home run in 26 games, his longest drought since 2007.

"To be able to get four runs in one inning," Ibanez said, "and the way Cole was pitching, it was a big inning for us."

Ibanez said he was looking for a knuckleball up in the zone after seeing what Howard and Werth did. But, Ibanez said, that can be tricky. A lot of times, the knuckleball will look like it's high only to wobble low. This one didn't.

"My timing was a little off," Wakefield said. "I left a couple up. . . . It just didn't have that late finish to it."

Manuel said he was glad to see his hitters be aggressive when they noticed Wakefield making mistakes. It was a brief period, but enough Sunday.

"Pitchers have been getting ahead of us, and we've been letting them skate," said Francisco, who followed Ibanez's home run with a double on the next pitch.

"It's nice to take advantage early in the count and not let them get comfortable out there."

Wakefield was one of the pitchers who stymied the Phillies in late May at the beginning of this inexplicable stretch. Could it be the Phillies have come full circle?

"I don't know," Ibanez said. "I'll believe in anything right now."

Contact staff writer Matt Gelb
at 215-854-2928 or mgelb@phillynews.com.
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