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With runs at premium, Phils turn to small ball

With runs at premium, Phils turn to small ball

PHILADELPHIA -- An hour after the last out Sunday night, Jimmy Rollins was stuffing a red shirt in a duffle bag for the long flight to California, and I could tell he was in deep thought, but definitely at peace with himself.

"This was baseball tonight," Rollins said, looking up from the packing. "This is what baseball is all about."


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Rollins, who's been in a dreadful slump, crushed a booming double to right field that scored three runs in the seventh inning, but that wasn't what he was talking about.

"It was small ball," he said, forcing a smile. "You have to be able to do that to win games."

He seemed as pleased with the way his teammates achieved this important victory as he was with the double that iced the decision for the Phillies and Roy Oswalt.

The 6-1 victory over San Francisco at Citizens Bank Park pulled the Phillies even with the Giants after two games in the National League Championship Series. The best-of-seven tournament resumes Tuesday at AT&T Park -- Cole Hamels vs. the Giants' Matt Cain.

The Phillies have been scuffling for hits and runs this postseason, even though they swept the Reds in the NL Division Series. It's a team not known for manufacturing runs, i.e. small ball.

"I wasn't surprised," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy, referring to the Phillies' small-ball approach. "When you look at the two teams, runs are a premium. That's the type of ball you're probably going to play when you're facing teams with good pitching. You try to score any way you can. That's why you'll see some small ball."

The Phillies took a 1-0 lead on Sunday night before many in the crowd of 46,099 found their seats. And they did it without a hit. Rollins walked with the bases loaded, capping off an excellent two-out at-bat against Jonathan Sanchez, who was 2-0 in two starts against Philadelphia this year.

Rollins' walk set the tone for the game, which in reality was a must win for the favored Phillies if they're going to make it back to the World Series for the third consecutive year.

"I thought that was a good at-bat for him," manager Charlie Manuel said. "He started seeing the ball better in that at-bat and the rest of the night."

Oswalt, who allowed just three hits and struck out nine during eight splendid innings, was victimized by nemesis Cody Ross, who blasted his third homer in this series and fourth in the playoffs. That came in the fifth inning, the first hit Oswalt allowed after retiring 13 of the first 14 batters he faced.

Shane Victorino led off the Philllies' fifth doubling down the left-field line.

Chase Utley followed -- Manuel switched Utley and Placido Polanco in the batting order -- and showed bunt.

Utley bunting?

"It was his own idea," said Manuel.

Utley did advance Victorino to third with a high fly to right, and the run scored on Polanco's sacrifice fly.

That gave the Phillies a 2-1 lead, and they never looked back.

Weeks from now, we may look back at the seventh inning, which could define this series for the Phils.

Oswalt, using a borrowed Rollins bat, singled to left-center. More small ball: Victorino sacrificed Oswalt to second.

Now, it got interesting.

With Oswalt on second and one out, Bochy elected to intentionally walk Utley. It's not very often the No. 2 batter is passed in favor of the third-place hitter.

When Polanco singled to center, Oswalt was determined to score. Had first baseman Aubrey Huff not cut off the throw from the outfield, Oswalt would have been out by 15 feet. Third-base coach Sam Perlozzo threw up the stop sign, which Oswalt ignored.

"What the [heck] are we going to do, rope him?" joked Manuel. "I ain't that good. I'm not a cowboy. I might look like one, talk like one, but I'm not one."

Oswalt said: "When Polanco hit the ball, the first thing that went through my mind was to score. I read it pretty well coming off the bat. I didn't look at the center fielder to see how close he was. When I got halfway, I saw the stop sign. I said, 'It's too late now, no turning back.'"

"And as Roy said, 'Speed don't slump,'" Rollins said.

For years, fans have been saying that as Rollins goes, so go the Phillies.

On Sunday night, after he arrived at second base, the huge crowd began chanting, "J-Roll, J-Roll, J-Roll."

"It's a great feeling when that happens," he said. "We have great fans. They're into the games. We sold out 130-something consecutive games, and it feels good when they lift you back up in a moment like that."

Manuel, the hitting guru, has been encouraged by Rollins' progress.

"Getting a big hit or hitting the ball square in the gap, that's what really gets you going," said Rollins. "It's like, 'OK, that swing was there. I can picture that and remember that and take it up to my next at-bat. Hopefully, I'll remember what I did.'"

Rollins grew up in Oakland, so playing the Giants in the NLCS will be a special homecoming for him.

"I love playing in front of my family, friends who I haven't gotten to see in awhile. The fans are on the fence -- do they boo me, do they get on me, do they cheer me? It has never been a situation like this before. So, I'll probably get some treatment along the lines that Pat Burrell got [returning] here, just because I'm from there and everybody knows it."

Pausing a moment, he added: "If they don't boo you, you're probably not a good player."

Bottom line: There were no boos in Philadelphia on Sunday night.

Hal Bodley is the senior correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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