IN THE SEEMINGLY interminable quest to score runs during the first 3 weeks of the regular season, the most conspicuous holes in the Phillies' lineup were the ones where Jimmy Rollins and Placido Polanco used to hit.
So for all of the negatives you could point to in a 6-4 win over the Cubs on Monday night, the lasting impression was left with two outs in the eighth inning, when Polanco laced a double to leftfield to send Juan Pierre and Rollins scrambling home on what would prove to be the game-winning hit.
For Polanco, it meant his third multihit performance in four games.
"It was a good feeling. Game-winning RBI, tight game in the eighth, it's a good feeling," he said.
For Rollins, it meant another productive day at the leadoff spot, where he returned on Saturday after spending the first 20 games of the season in the three-hole. And for the Phillies, it meant a split of a four-game series with the Cubs, as well as an 11-12 record that they will take with them on a daunting road trip through Atlanta and Washington.
"When you win a game and you go and get on the plane, it's always better," manager Charlie Manuel said after watching his team blow a 4-1 lead before the eighth-inning dramatics. "It's hard to explain, really. It's always better, under any circumstances. At the same time, we're trying to play better baseball, and we're going to have to play better. Hopefully, this can carry over from tonight and we can go down and play good in Atlanta."
For one inning Monday night, the Phillies seemed primed to dole out the type of thumping that had been their specialty during their rise to prominence. After Rollins bunted his way on base and Shane Victorino legged out an infield hit, Hunter Pence knocked an RBI single to center, Carlos Ruiz drove two more home with a base hit, and Pete Orr extended the lead to 4-0 with a single to right.
But for the most part, the bats were silent. By the end of the seventh, the Phillies had two bunt singles, two infield singles and three walks, along with base hits to the outfield by Pence, Ruiz, Orr, Polanco and Ty Wigginton. The Cubs, meanwhile, had seen a would-be double erased when second-base umpire Angel Campos called David DeJesus out in the first inning, even though he appeared to beat the throw from rightfield.
Karma owed the visitors a little something. And in the eighth inning, she repaid. Vance Worley left the game after the seventh having allowed one run, two walks and five hits while striking out five on 102 pitches. Attempting to protect a 4-1 lead, Antonio Bastardo retired DeJesus, walked Tony Campana, then gave way to Chad Qualls, who allowed an RBI single to Starlin Castro and a two-run home run to Bryan LaHair as the Cubs tied the game.
But the Phillies rallied in the eighth. Pierre reached base when he was hit with a one-out pitch, then advanced to third on a two-out single by Rollins. That set the stage for Polanco, who hit only .196 in the first 18 games.
"You keep working," he said, of overcoming his struggles. "You kind of relax a little bit more if you've been around a little bit, but at the same time you want to come to work and make adjustments on whatever you are doing wrong."
Jonathan Papelbon recorded his seventh save, issuing a leadoff walk before retiring the next three batters he faced in the ninth.
"That's good - we need to be able to come back like that,'' Worley said. "It's just a matter of getting the runs and keep going."
Now, the Phillies turn their attention toward their toughest week yet. The six starters they will face in Atlanta and Washington have combined for a 2.25 ERA in 164 1/3 innings this season. The good news is that the Phillies have had success against such talented pitchers as Josh Johnson and Tim Lincecum, scoring a combined 11 runs in 9 1/3 innings against the two righthanders. The bad news is those nights, as well as nights like Monday, have been the exception this season.
David Herndon felt something in his elbow during the ninth inning of the Phillies' 5-1 loss to the Cubs on Sunday. Monday, the joint still hurt. Tuesday, he is scheduled for an MRI.
The Phillies placed the righthander on the 15-day disabled list, with a corresponding roster move to be made before Tuesday's game.
Herndon pitched two innings in Sunday's loss, allowing a pair of runs on three hits with one strikeout. In five appearances this season, he has logged 7 2/3 innings, allowing four runs on 10 hits and one walk, with eight strikeouts.
"There's just some discomfort," Herndon said after the Phillies' win over the Cubs Monday night. "I felt it grab a little bit, and it still hurt today. Just have to get it checked out."