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Late-inning heroics turn tide for Phillies

Late-inning heroics turn tide for Phillies

PHILADELPHIA -- The unacceptable "here-we-go again" mentality, as Aaron Rowand called it, had to vanish if the Phillies were going to turn around their April.

Understanding that it is April 24, and knowing 143 games remain on Philadelphia's 2007 schedule, it's safe to say that the Phillies' fourth straight win -- a 6-3, come-from-behind triumph over the Nationals on Tuesday night -- provided a jolt to what had become a dismal 4-11 start.

"It's a long season and, to me, the poor start is over," Jamie Moyer said.

The Phillies seemed inspired by the early departure of Washington starter Jason Bergmann, who was feeling ill after fighting through 87 pitches, but had allowed one earned run on three hits.

"We were shocked because he was dominating," Wes Helms said. "He didn't have overpowering stuff, but it had great movement. We weren't hitting him at all. It shocked us when they took him out of the game."

Rowand greeted reliever Saul Rivera with a game-tying homer into a swirling wind blowing to left field, tying the game.

A three-run eighth inning propelled the Phillies to victory. The inning began when Micah Bowie hit Chase Utley leading off. After Ryan Howard struck out, Jon Rauch relieved Bowie and got ahead 0-2 on both Pat Burrell and Wes Helms.

But it wouldn't matter. Burrell worked a one-out walk and Helms deposited a go-ahead single in front of center fielder Ryan Church. Utley scored and Burrell followed when Church's throw skipped past third baseman Ryan Zimmerman for an error. That allowed Helms to reach second, and he scored when Carlos Ruiz singled, giving the Phillies a three-run lead.

"I got jammed on that ball, and it proved that I don't have to hit the ball on the barrel to have success," Helms said.

Closer Tom Gordon, whose appearances have been adventures, recorded his fourth save.

The Nationals began four separate innings with a base runner, three of which scored. The Nationals struck first when Austin Kearns led off the second with a triple down the left-field line and scored on Ryan Church's double. Felipe Lopez began the third with a single and scored on Ronnie Belliard's double, giving the Nationals a 2-1 lead. That was extended to 3-1 when Kearns doubled in the sixth and scored on a Brian Schneider single.

Moyer lasted six innings in recording a no-decision for Philadelphia, allowing three runs on six hits. Antonio Alfonseca worked a scoreless eighth for his first win.

The Phillies are now 4-0 since having a lengthy postgame meeting before Saturday's win over the Reds.

"That meeting definitely made a difference," Rowand said. "A lot of stuff needed to be said. It was a great thing. [Manager] Charlie [Manuel] started it off and everybody followed suit. It was a reality check for everybody. Everybody needed to be doing the things that we needed to be doing the things to win ball games.

"The mentality of here-we-go-again is unacceptable and now everybody isn't worried about that," he continued. "We know what we can do, run scoring-wise. We just weren't getting the job done as a collective whole. We weren't hitting the ball all that well. We weren't playing all that well on defense and our pitching wasn't doing that well. When you have those three things going against you, you're not going to win a whole lot of games."

It's only been four games, but the Phillies have been playing well, despite a slow first month from Howard and Utley. In their stead, Burrell (eight-game hitting streak), Helms and Rowand (13-game hitting streak) have carried the load.

"There are things we have to do when our big guys aren't hitting," Helms said. "It shows you what this lineup can do when everybody hits. We're still waiting for that big game where we burst out and go out on a tear for a few weeks."

As for the calm and productive meeting, which Helms referred to as a Thanksgiving dinner: "I'm a big believer that you're not going to win without chemistry. The past four games, we played with chemistry. We need to be a family out there. We're playing together and guys are picking each other up."

Ken Mandel 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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