At 6:40 p.m., Chase Utley jogged to right field to begin his pregame stretches. He was the first Phillies position player on the field, and the largest regular-season crowd in Citizens Bank Park history cheered. The fans cheered when he signed a few autographs minutes before the game. And they cheered when the scoreboard showed him signing said autographs.
When he batted for the second time in the third inning of Monday's 10-3, feel-good blowout of Cincinnati, many of the 45,841 fans began chanting, "Let's go, Chase!" He struck out, but they cheered anyway because a seven-run inning was in the books.
"I tried to tune them out a little bit," Utley said, "but they were a little bit too loud."
Utley was not the reason why the Phillies emerged from an offensive coma with style. Actually, he had absolutely nothing to do with it, going 0 for 5. And the fans still cheered after each out.
But that buzz was back, the buzz that has encapsulated the previous four seasons in this ballpark, the buzz that comes with prodigious offensive displays. (No offense to the spectacular pitching that has dominated this season.)
"When you get him around the game, it just gets guys excited," starter Cole Hamels said. "It's a new energy level. If that's what it takes for us to get going, then great."
"We scored 10 runs," Charlie Manuel said. "I don't know if it was his presence or not, but somebody did something right. So we'll give him credit, all right?"
The Phillies batted around in the third, even with Utley accounting for two outs. Jimmy Rollins hit a three-run home run. Raul Ibanez, who is hitting .353 since May 3, singled home a run. John Mayberry Jr. dunked one into left for two more. Even Hamels drove in a run with a single.
Maybe the lesson here is: Nine games do not a season make. (Of course, neither does one night of an offensive explosion.) Nine games straight of three or fewer runs were mostly painful to watch, but they represented exactly 5.6 percent of the 162-game season.
This Phillies offense is capable of slumping, and it will do so again this season. It is also capable of nights like Monday.
These sorts of games offer the promise of a healthy offense. In the 20 games when the Phillies have scored four or more runs, they are 18-2, by far the best winning percentage in the majors. Averaging more than four runs per game is not a tall task; the National League average entering Monday's play was 4.09. (The Phillies were at 3.83.)
It helped that the wind was blowing out for a good portion of the game and it was one of the more humid nights at the ballpark this season. Manuel and a handful of his players have maintained that the offense would heal with both health and warmer weather.
Monday marked the first time the Phillies scored 10 runs in 24 days. The seven runs in the third inning were more than they had scored in an entire game since May 5.
Utley made the first and last outs of the inning. He played eight innings before Manuel removed him in the rout. Utley flied out to center in his first at-bat, chopped one back to the pitcher in his second, struck out in his third, flied out to center in his fourth, and grounded out to second in his fifth and final at-bat.
Utley's first-inning at-bat, was sandwiched between a Rollins single and a Placido Polanco homer. Every starting player but Utley had at least one hit, and seven different Phillies scored runs.
The fickle game that is baseball led Roy Oswalt to muse a day earlier about the lack of offense after another low-scoring Phillies loss Sunday.
"You never really know what's going to happen," Oswalt said. "The next 10 games we could score 10 every game."
Maybe he was on to something.