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Hot-hitting Ibanez, Doc's 10 K's pace Phils

Hot-hitting Ibanez, Doc's 10 K's pace Phils

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies just played their first week of baseball without Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Shane Victorino.

They went 6-1.

Maybe that should not be a surprise. They have had practice playing with a skeleton crew this season. Their Opening Day lineup has played together just seven times because of injuries to Utley, Howard, Victorino, Jimmy Rollins, Placido Polanco and Carlos Ruiz.

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Of course, playing without Howard and Utley is different. Those two are the heart of the lineup, a double-whammy as the pennant race heats up, so the fact that the Phillies scored 37 runs in those seven games is worth noting.

"This team has a different mentality of any team I've been on," left fielder Raul Ibanez said following Sunday's 6-5 victory over the Mets at Citizens Bank Park, which keeps the Phillies two games behind the Braves in the National League East and within a half-game of the Giants in the Wild Card race.

Mentality is nice.

But having players who can hit is even nicer.

Nearly no one in baseball has been a hotter hitter over the past two-plus weeks than Ibanez, who hit a three-run homer in the third inning to give the Phillies a three-run lead. Ibanez is hitting .407 (24-for-59) with four doubles, four home runs, 16 RBIs, 12 walks, a .500 on-base percentage and a .678 slugging percentage during his career-high 16-game hitting streak.

Ibanez was hitting .248 with a .331 on-base percentage and a .394 slugging percentage on July 21, and has since raised those marks to .274, .359 and .439, respectively.

Just a few weeks ago, fans wanted Domonic Brown called up from Triple-A Lehigh Valley to replace Ibanez, now it is hard to imagine where the Phillies would be without Ibanez's resurgence.

"He's hitting the ball hard," manager Charlie Manuel said. "He's tried everything. He's talked to everybody. He lost a lot of sleep, probably."

Ibanez carried the Phillies through the first few months of 2009, but injuries slowed him the rest of the season. He started slowly this season, too, which had many wondering about his ability to play. Had the 38-year-old fully recovered from his offseason sport-hernia surgeries, or had he simply lost bat speed overnight?

Or maybe it was just a prolonged slump.

"The harder you look, the less you find it," Ibanez said. "It's almost like you have to back off and just trust yourself and trust that everything that you've done and all that work that you've done is going to pay off. Less is more, and it really is."

Was he looking too hard before finally backing off?

"Oh, I looked," he said.

Ibanez's homer provided right-hander Roy Halladay (14-8) a nice cushion on an afternoon when he needed all the help he could get. Halladay allowed two runs in the first inning to give the Mets a two-run lead. Jayson Werth hit a solo homer to center field in the second to make it 2-1, and the Phillies scored five runs in the third.

It looked as though Mets center fielder Carlos Beltran might have been able to catch Werth's homer, but he instead ran into the fence and awkwardly caught his head under the padding.

"I would have caught it if I didn't get stuck in the fence," Beltran said. "I would have caught it."

Halladay allowed nine hits, five runs and one walk, and struck out 10 in seven innings. He retired 10 consecutive batters at one point and did not allow a run from the second through fifth innings. He then allowed one run in the sixth and two runs in the seventh.

Halladay, who has not enjoyed much run support this season, would take the win.

"It's a little easier to sleep at night taking a win out of it, especially against a team we need to win games against," he said.

Halladay entered the game first in the NL in innings (178), complete games (eight) and shutouts (three); second in strikeout-to-walk ratio (7.52) and walks per nine innings (1.06); and third in ERA (2.17) and strikeouts (158).

He has been everything the Phillies had hoped he would be.

Sunday was the fifth time this season he has allowed five or more earned runs in a start. He has a 7.67 ERA in those outings. He has a 0.94 ERA in his other 19.

After Halladay exited, Ryan Madson pitched a perfect eighth and Brad Lidge threw a scoreless ninth after allowing a leadoff single to Josh Thole. Lidge is 4-for-4 in save opportunities in his last five appearances. He has allowed just two hits and no walks in 4 1/3 innings, and he has struck out four.

"I think I'll start doing my best if I can get some consistent work and get out there a lot," Lidge said. "Fortunately, we've been playing real well, and I've been getting a lot of opportunities."

Lidge is getting those opportunities because the offense is scoring runs, even without Utley, Howard and Victorino. Ibanez is a big reason why.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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