When Raul Ibanez's feet touched second base, he looked to third and saw Ryan Howard staring at him, clapping. He began to shed the batting gloves from the 38-year-old hands he has trusted for 16 major-league seasons, only to fail him for 35 straight at-bats.
Washington shortstop Ian Desmond tapped Ibanez on the rear and informed the Phillies leftfielder that, indeed, he too knew about the streak. He had a message for Ibanez.
"If you can get out of that, you can get out of anything," he recalled Desmond saying.
"I thanked him for that," Ibanez said.
The Phillies won, 4-1, over the Nationals on Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park, and it was not because of Ibanez's two doubles. One did score a crucial insurance run in the seventh inning, but a retooled lineup and Cole Hamels had guaranteed victory by that juncture. Hamels pitched a complete game, the team's fourth of the season, most in the majors.
Ibanez's two hits did little to dissuade the notion that he is out of a slump that has dropped his batting average to .168 in 95 at-bats. But this represents optimism.
"The only way to function is to pretend it never happened," Ibanez said.
After watching 14 innings of an anemic offense that scored one run Sunday, Charlie Manuel made the first drastic changes to his lineup in Game 28. The Phillies entered Tuesday with the best record in the National League, yet the manager felt as if something had to be done as he prepared to watch a former cornerstone of his lineup, Jayson Werth - who was booed, cheered, booed, and finished 0 for 3 with a walk in his return to Philadelphia.
Manuel moved Jimmy Rollins from third in the lineup, where he had batted in the season's first 27 games, to his customary leadoff spot. That bumped Shane Victorino to second and Placido Polanco to third in the order.
But it was one change Manuel did not make that paid off.
Ibanez started in left and batted sixth, just as he has for much of this season. Then he eluded the ignominy of tying the franchise's longest hitless streak. It ended on at-bat No. 36, a double to center that hopped over the fence in the fourth inning.
Danny Murtaugh, Len Matuszek, and Desi Relaford remain owners of the worst droughts in modern Phillies history at 36 at-bats.
"You keep working, you keep swinging, do a lot of praying, and something good might happen for you," Manuel said. "That's how you get out of a slump."
Ibanez said he had heard from friends, teammates, and coaches during the stretch, which lasted 14 days. A former teammate, Jose Cruz, told Ibanez he had a longer streak. (True. In 2004, Cruz went 37 at-bats without a hit.) Manuel said the same thing. (Also true. He went hitless for 36 at-bats in 1969.)
It did not help much.
"I didn't even think that was possible, really," Ibanez said. "That was kind of hard to do. I watch the opposing pitchers go up there, step in the bucket, pull their head and dunk one over the first baseman's head. And I'm like, 'I'm making this way too tough.' "
Manuel's new lineup, which he is sure to keep as long as the Phillies win, hit, too - although four runs on 12 hits and seven walks is not exactly efficient.
Two runs would have been enough for Hamels. He threw 108 pitches in his eighth career complete game. Maybe the most remarkable thing about these Phillies after 28 games is that pitching accomplishments like Hamels' are implicit.
Even with a stellar rotation, the manager will worry about his offense. Nine innings of baseball Tuesday could help Manuel sleep better.
Ibanez will join him.
"I can't put the feeling in words when I hit it," Ibanez said, "and I saw them running for it."
Cole Hamels' triple against Washington was the first by a Phillies pitcher since Cory Lidle hit one on April 29, 2006.
The Phillies' career leader for triples by a pitcher is Dick Ruthven, who hit four.