They look like they could be brothers, a couple of 6-foot-4 towheads with high cheekbones and, on this afternoon, big country smiles.

Hunter Pence and Jake Diekman went through a whirlwind of emotions on Tuesday afternoon. Pence drew boos for a costly error, his second defensive misadventure of this homestand, then cranked the game-winning home run in the 10th inning. The homer - which for added delight came at the expense of old pal Brett Myers - earned a victory for Diekman in the young lefthander's major-league debut.

In the wider view, it was a game that could help this team get on a roll. The Phillies take their first three-game winning streak of the season to Chicago for two. Win them, and the Phillies would have a winning record for the start of the weekend series against Boston.

But that's the big picture. This was a day for smaller ones. Pence had been struggling at the plate. His dropped fly ball last Wednesday and blooper-reel throw Tuesday had him "beating myself up."

"It weighed on me a little too much," Pence said. "I feel like I was carrying it. I love to play the game. That's the main thing, getting out of the way of myself. . . . I kind of have a different mentality the last two, three days. I love to play the game."

As hard as it is for the rest of us to understand sometimes, it is possible to lose sight of those things over a long season. But if Pence or any of his teammates need a reminder of how fortunate they are to be playing baseball for a living, Diekman provided a breathless reminder.

"Awesome," Diekman said. "I told Juan Pierre: This is awesome."

The 25-year-old reliever from Wymore, Neb. (a town about an hour south of Lincoln, if that helps you get your bearings) was called up from Triple-A on Friday. He was in the bullpen at the Bank all weekend without getting to pitch. His father flew in for his son's debut but had to return home Sunday without seeing Diekman make his debut.

Clearly, manager Charlie Manuel and pitching coach Rich Dubee were looking for the right opportunity to see how the kid would do in the big leagues.

"I really thought I was going to have a four- or five-run lead or something like that," Diekman said.

The Phillies had a four-run lead in the ninth inning Monday night, but closer Jonathan Papelbon had already warmed up when it was 3-1 in the eighth.

"We didn't really want to put Diekman in that situation," Manuel said. "But today, we figured we might as well run him out there and let him pitch in the big leagues."

It was the ninth inning. Chad Qualls had just blown a 3-1 lead, costing starter Cliff Lee a win. The score was tied at 3 with runners on second and third and two out.

Tough spot to "run him out there." And literally, running out there was Diekman's first concern.

"I had to make sure I didn't trip down the stairs first," Diekman said. "Then I wanted to make it all the way to the mound without tripping. I couldn't feel my legs when I was running out to the mound. The first warmup pitch was terrifying. I didn't want to throw it to the backstop. The first time [he warmed up in the bullpen here], I threw the first pitch to the backstop."

So how did the kid do? He struck out Marwin Gonzalez to get out of the ninth then threw a perfect 10th with two more strikeouts to earn the win. Diekman mixed a 95-m.p.h. fastball and a devilish slider, his near-sidearm delivery making both pitches more effective.

For a team thirsty for bullpen help, Diekman was a gallon of ice-cold water. For a team playing as if every tiny mistake will lead to a loss, he was a breath of pure oxygen. Even if he needed some oxygen of his own.

"I felt pretty comfortable because I tried to control my breathing as much as possible," Diekman said. "The second inning helped because I had [faced] that one hitter already, so I felt like, OK, I did it before. Now just go do it again."

He did. And Pence delivered his second home run of the day. And a game that had turned as foreboding as the overcast sky that hung over it was suddenly a Phillies win.

On Sunday, Manuel said he felt like his players were trying too hard. They were quiet in the dugout and not enjoying the game. They needed something exciting to happen, needed to have some fun.

A walkoff homer by a struggling veteran and a lights-out debut by an exhilarated rookie - as Roy Halladay might say, it doesn't get much funner than that.

Contact Phil Sheridan at 215-854-2844, psheridan@phillynews.com, or @Sheridanscribe on Twitter. Read his blog, "Philabuster," at http://go.philly.com/philabuster. Read his columns at www.philly.com/philsheridan