Phils roll, claim share of Wild Card lead

Phils roll, claim share of Wild Card lead

PHILADELPHIA -- The most crucial, stressful patch of the regular season is upon them, and the Phillies laughed loudly at Citizens Bank Park.

In an impressive show of firepower, Philadelphia punished Atlanta, 12-4, on Wednesday and gained ground on all playoff fronts. The Marlins lost to the Astros and are now tied with the Phillies atop the National league Wild Card race.

So much for last week's sweep at the hands of Houston ending Philadelphia's season.

"That series seems like a while ago," said winning pitcher Cory Lidle, who's gotten 24 runs of support in his last two starts. "It's September baseball, and every game counts. We're stepping up right now. We got Houston out of our system."

"We don't play them anymore, so we just forgot about it," added Jason Michaels, who homered in the rout. "We had to move on. We had to stay within ourselves, and we have so far."

Since losing to the Astros on Sept. 7 -- which ran the Phils' losing streak to five games and dropped them 2 1/2 games back in the Wild Card -- the Phillies have won five out of six games. They've taken two of three from the Marlins and the first three games from the Braves.

As a result, Philadelphia is again challenging for the NL East, as it moved within five games of Atlanta.

"We're definitely in that race," said manager Charlie Manuel. "Atlanta hasn't won [anything] yet. Our players know what's at stake, and are enjoying playing in this race. We're getting big hits and things are going our way."

The biggest hit from the many offensive contributors came from Ramon Martinez, whose first career grand slam in the third inning gave Philadelphia a 7-0 lead. Martinez started at first base with Atlanta lefty Horacio Ramirez on the hill.

It was Martinez's first homer in more than a year and ranks high on his list of big contributions, after his first Major League hit.

"Your first hit in the big leagues is the special one," he said. "It felt good, because we're in a pennant race. When you get the chance, you can't try to do too much. Good things can happen."

Every Phillies starter had at least one hit, and David Bell and Jimmy Rollins had three apiece. For Rollins, it ran his hitting streak to 20 games.

The support was plenty for Lidle, who improved to 11-10. Making his second start since returning from the 15-day disabled list, Lidle lasted five innings and allowed three runs -- two in the fourth, and one in the fifth.

Geoff Geary allowed Atlanta's most impressive run of the night, when he served up Andruw Jones' 50th homer of the season and the 300th of his career. Measured at 434 feet, the ball seemed to travel much further, landing in the second deck, a half section above the Geico sign.

Considering the score, Manuel marveled at the shot.

"I enjoyed watching that one," he said. "If [Geary's] going to give one up, that's the way I like to see him do it. That was worth following. It wasn't how far was it was going to go, it was what was it going to tear up when it landed."

Besides, the Phillies had already torn up the Braves and made last week a distant memory.

"It doesn't surprise me," said Lidle. "This team has a lot of ability, and when we're playing with confidence, we can play with anybody. We still have a tough schedule ahead of us, but I think everyone is looking forward to that challenge."

Ken Mandel is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.