Dellucci, Utley deliver late to lift Phils

Dellucci, Utley deliver late to lift Phils

PHILADELPHIA -- David Dellucci was just trying to hit the ball in the air.

He ended up grounding a pinch-hit, go-ahead RBI single to right field in the eighth inning of the Phillies' eventual 6-5 win over the Braves, and lifted the spirits of an organization tinkering with the buy-or-sell decision with the July 31 trade deadline approaching.

"This win was huge for many different reasons," Dellucci said. "We're at home. We're playing the Braves, and the way we won the game was big. Hopefully, this sets the tone for the homestand. It's a very important stretch for us."

Philadelphia arrived home from a 3-3 West Coast road trip to begin a season-long 12-game homestand. The Braves are one of the hottest teams in baseball, having gone 8-2 over their past 10, and lead the Majors in several offensive categories this month.

Phils starter Cory Lidle (7-7) paid no attention to that, winning his third straight start. He went a season-high eight innings, scattering three runs on six hits and one walk while striking out five.

"Earlier in my career, I went eight innings all the time," Lidle said. "I haven't been able to get that far in a game in a long time. I found a good rhythm earlier and carried it through eight innings. It's big for me."

Rollins was supported in a big way by Jimmy Rollins and David Bell, who each had four hits, and Chase Utley extended his hitting streak to 22 games by delivering what turned out to be the decisive two-run single in a three-run eighth. The Phillies have won six of their last nine.

"We've got [11 more] games at home," manager Charlie Manuel said. "This would be a good time for us to get hot. We haven't played too good at home, and I think it's time for us to definitely step it up. I feel like we're still in it, but we've got to play much better -- we've got to play more consistent. Every day when I come to work, the players that we've got, that's what we've got."

Dellucci, who is one of many Phillies mentioned in trade talks, leads the Majors with 15 pinch-hits. With the game tied at 3, each team having hit a two-run homer and a solo shot, Aaron Rowand drew a one-out walk. Bell followed with his fourth single of the game and Dellucci delivered a single for a 4-3 lead.

One out later, Rollins hit a grounder to first baseman Adam LaRoche, who was playing deep. Braves reliever Ken Ray didn't get over to cover first base, and Rollins beat it out for a single.

That allowed Utley to continue his hitting streak in a big way, with a two-out, two-run single to center to make the score 6-3.

"Ray definitely has to be there. That was the ballgame," Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said. "I've never seen Ray make a mistake before, but that was a big mistake."

It was huge because closer Tom Gordon surrendered a two-run homer to Jeff Francoeur in the ninth before nailing down his 23rd save.

Bell entered the game 1-for-24 (.042) against Smoltz, but laced three of his four hits off the veteran righty. Rookie Chris Coste, who smacked his first career homer on Wednesday, stayed hot with a two-run blast off Smoltz in the fourth.

"It's very frustrating for me personally," Smoltz said. "One bad pitch to the No. 8 hitter."

"It wasn't a great John Smoltz slider," Coste said. "I was able to get to it and drive it."

While the Phillies would love to be in the driver's seat in the final two months, they know they're going to need help. That's what happens when there are eight teams to climb over in the National League Wild Card race.

It makes each win that much more important.

"There's no question that it's not over, by a long shot," Bell said. "It's not something we can think about either. We have to go out and play the game. If you do that, anything can happen. We believe it can happen. It doesn't matter what people think. What matters is going out and playing. It's a matter of winning games."

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