NEW YORK - Phillies outfielder Domonic Brown was not in manager Charlie Manuel's lineup Friday, but he felt good after batting practice, which would have meant approximately nothing nine months ago.
Back then, Brown would swing in the indoor cage each inning with hope of a successful pinch-hit at-bat. That rarely happened.
"It's a totally different situation," Brown said.
It's also one he may have to worry little about soon.
Brown did not enter Friday's 6-4 win over the New York Mets until the eighth inning. He singled twice, scored two runs, and stole a base. And though Manuel has promised to ease the organization's most promising young talent into his lineup, Brown's days of coming off the bench will dwindle.
The 23-year-old was in the middle of it all Friday night at Citi Field. The Phillies scored four times in the final two innings, forced Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez to make a walk of shame before the ninth inning was over, and rallied for a win that looked unlikely after seven innings.
"It took us a while to get started," Manuel said. "We got some breaks."
The Phillies also committed enough mistakes to lose. Chase Utley collided with Jimmy Rollins, allowing a lazy pop-up to develop into a Mets run. Michael Stutes tried a pickoff and launched the ball to second base, where no one was covering. Placido Polanco, known for his ability to do the little things right, could not score a runner from third with one out.
And yet the hapless Mets still managed to do worse.
This one was not without ninth-inning drama in the form of a shaky Ryan Madson save. But he prevailed by inducing a game-ending double play with the tying run on first.
Incredibly, the Phillies are 21-2 when scoring four or more runs, by far the best winning percentage in the majors. Good pitching kills. A satisfactory, timely offense can do the job, too.
Rodriguez was not as fortunate as Madson. Before Friday, Rodriguez had not allowed a run to the Phillies in 181/3 career innings. The Mets closer allowed three runs and five hits in the ninth, demolishing what was a tie game.
"He was getting behind in the count," Manuel said. "He's gutty. He'll come at you. He'll make you beat you. That's what happened."
With runners on first and second, and one out, Brown hit a hard grounder to first. Mets first baseman Daniel Murphy tried to field it at his side to more easily turn a double play, but the ball never touched his glove. It bounced into right field for a run-scoring single to put the Phillies ahead permanently.
An inning earlier, Brown pinch-hit against Jason Isringhausen and led off the eighth with a single. He promptly stole second base.
"He made it a lot easier for me to do my job," Rollins said. "Now, all I have to do is get him over and slap it down the line."
That's what Rollins did, and the ball sneaked past the first-base bag for a double to easily score Brown.
"He's ready," Rollins said.
Until Brown entered the game, it looked like a sloppy defeat was in store. The Mets were the team that had capitalized on blunders, scoring an unearned run in the fifth when Rollins and Utley collided to drop a pop-up.
But Brown initiated the game's shift three innings later.
"Last year, I was focused, but I was still too high up," Brown said. "I come to the plate now and I'm the same guy in the first inning or whenever. I know what to expect now. That's what was so good about having me up last year that I didn't understand."
And now the Phillies are beginning to understand exactly how talented their young outfielder is.