PHOENIX - The pitch was a cutter that ran inside, and in one perfect motion Jimmy Rollins swung, recoiled, and flicked his bat to the ground. The ball landed deep in the left-field seats at Chase Field for Rollins' first home run of the season during an 8-4 Phillies victory over Arizona.
There was nothing meant by the flip, Rollins said later. ("It's not my first. It won't be the last.") In the bullpen, Ryan Madson had the same thought as probably a few others watching: He was just a bit happy about that one.
"No," Rollins said, "I was just trying to uncork myself a little bit."
There was no hint of Rollins' classic smile. Yet this one did mean something; it put the Phillies ahead, 6-1, ensuring little drama in this series finale. They had scored at least six runs in a Cole Hamels start, something that had happened only once in his 15 previous outings.
And the manager, who turned around from his perch in the dugout to make eye contact with some of his players as Rollins rounded the bases, nodded in approval. This one felt good.
"Sometimes that means a lot," Charlie Manuel said of Rollins' homer. "I've seen guys, when they hit one, all of a sudden they relax, and things start going good for them."
It all clicked Wednesday for the Phillies as this long, strange week spent in the West ended with familiarity: music blaring in the clubhouse, a dominant pitching performance by an ace, and some timely hits to avoid late-inning stress.
They return to Philadelphia 16-8, having gone 5-2 on this trip. When the home schedule resumes Friday at Citizens Bank Park, they will have a different closer (Madson) than before, one ace (Roy Oswalt) could still be away from the team tending to family matters, and the catcher (Carlos Ruiz) may need some time off with a back injury.
But this was a profitable stay out West. If anything, the last two games in Arizona awakened the bats.
Rollins ended a streak of 47 plate appearances without an extra-base hit when he doubled in the first inning. The Phillies scored three times, the big hit being Ben Francisco's two-run double. Ryan Howard homered in the ninth, his first long ball in 62 plate appearances.
The Phils hit three homers in a game for the first time this season.
It was more than enough for Hamels, who had no troubles pitching seven innings following a start in San Diego when he threw 126 pitches. Hamels struck out eight and allowed three runs Wednesday. The last time Hamels pitched in this stadium, it may have been a low point of sorts in 2010: He allowed four home runs in the span of seven batters on April 23, 2010.
"Pitching with a little bit of a cushion helps," Hamels said.
Rollins is all for it, too. Well, maybe.
"We don't usually score a lot of runs for Cole," Rollins said. "I think it's helped him become a tougher pitcher. When he takes the mound, he is prepared to battle in close games. Getting him some runs is very good. But if it works better that he stays focused and we only score three or four runs to get the win, that works, too."
Rollins chewed a strawberry shortcake Popsicle as he put on his suit jacket. In between bites, he smiled at a question posed to him. Does a game like this put the shortstop on track?
"I'm feeling better," he said. "When it's good, I'll tell you. But I'm feeling better."
He took another lick and off it was to the plane that would carry these Phillies, a confident bunch eight games over .500, home.