CHARLIE MANUEL said he hopes Brad Lidge will be able to recover from his current case of elbow soreness by Friday. The Phillies definitely missed him last night, although clutch late-game performances from Chad Durbin, Ryan Madson, Shane Victorino and Placido Polanco muted the effects.

After the Marlins tied the game in the top of the eighth inning with three runs off fill-in setup man Jose Contreras, the Phillies staged a rally of their own in the bottom of the frame as Polanco's single scored Victorino from second and lifted them into first place by way of an 8-7 victory at Citizens Bank Park.

The win, along with the Braves' 5-0 loss to the Pirates, gave the Phillies a half-game lead in the National League East after weeks of playing stalking horse.

It also eased the sting of a game that on several occasions seemed close to spiraling out of control.

"It's always great to be in first place," said Manuel, whose team was last there on May 30. "That's the only way to live."

All seemed well heading into the eighth inning. Ryan Howard, Raul Ibanez and Victorino had all hit home runs, just the 14th time this season the suddenly power-starved Phillies have hit at least three in a game (they did it 27 times last season). The Phillies led by three runs, thanks to a couple of big outs recorded by righthander Durbin in the top of the seventh and a couple of runs pushed home in the bottom of the frame.

Righthander Joe Blanton had left the game with a 5-3 lead with one out in the seventh after issuing a walk to Emilio Bonifacio. But rookie lefty Antonio Bastardo allowed an RBI double to Logan Morrison, who moved to third base on the throw, putting the tying run one station from home with one out.

That's where Durbin shined, getting Marlins star Hanley Ramirez to pop a 1-2 fastball into foul territory on the first-base side for the all-important second out. After walking Dan Uggla, Durbin ended the frame with a fly-out by Gaby Sanchez.

"With a guy on third, less than two outs, he's swinging," Durbin said. "He's trying to get the guy in. That's what he's getting paid to do. So you take his aggressiveness into consideration and try to throw a ball off the plate, maybe he pulls it foul, get ahead of him, and try to get him to chase something."

The Marlins ended up tying the game anyway, even though the Phillies added two more runs to their lead in the bottom of the seventh. Lidge, who has allowed one earned run in his last 16 1/3 innings while converting 11-for-12 save opportunities, was unavailable with a condition that Manuel later termed both elbow "soreness" and "tenderness." Lidge later told reporters it was a "little hyperextension" but said he should be ready to pitch again on Friday, a prognosis that was echoed by Manuel in his postgame press conference.

The Phillies, now 80-60 with 22 games to play, have an off day tomorrow before traveling to New York for a three-game series with the Mets.

Lidge's absence was felt last night. Mike Stanton led off the eighth with a home run that cut the Phillies' lead to 7-5. With one out, Florida pushed another run home when Jayson Werth fielded a Bonifacio single in rightfield, then launched a wild throw to third base, where Brad Davis had held up on the play.

Werth wasn't even in the original lineup - Manuel said he wanted to get his rightfielder a full day off - but was forced into action when rookie outfielder Domonic Brown pulled up lame with a quad strain in batting practice. Batting seventh for the first start this season, he was the only Phillies regular not to reach base. Jimmy Rollins, batting in Werth's usual fifth hole for the second straight game, went 2-for-5 with two RBI and a run. Victorino, who led off for the second straight game, went 2-for-5 with two runs and a home run. Raul Ibanez went 3-for-4 with an RBI single, RBI triple and home run.

"[Werth's] a good player, he's a smart player," Manuel said, while at the same time calling throwing behind the runner "the cardinal sin of baseball."

"I think Jayson Werth definitely knows how to play the game. Usually, he makes good decisions."

In relief of Contreras, J.C. Romero walked Morrison and, more importantly, committed a balk that moved the tying run to third. That put Bonifacio in position to score on a wild pitch by Madson, who struck out Ramirez on the next pitch to stop the bleeding and keep the game tied at 7-7.

In the bottom of the eighth, Victorino hit a two-out single, stole second, then scored on Polanco's base hit. Madson followed by shutting down the ninth inning for the victory.

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