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Phillies cruise past Cubs in opener

Phils cruise past Cubs

PHILADELPHIA -- Maybe Pat Burrell read the paper, the article where general manager Pat Gillick implicated the heart of the order for the team's sputtering start.

"To be frank, the cause right now is the middle of the lineup," Gillick told The Philadelphia Inquirer. "Not everybody is doing their job, or playing to their potential, or doing what has to be done on a daily basis. The culprit in our situation is the middle of the lineup and the inconsistency in our bullpen."

Speaking for the middle of the order, Burrell offered a loud response Friday, as the left fielder pounded two home runs and drove in five runs in Philadelphia's 7-2 win over the Cubs at Citizens Bank Park. At three games below .500, the Phillies pulled even at home on this first game of a 10-game homestand.

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"I didn't know about [the story]," Burrell said. "They tell you not to read the papers around here. [But] he's right. You have to look at the production from the middle. I have no problem with that. If you're not doing your job, you have to pick it up."

The trio of Ryan Howard, Burrell and Wes Helms entered the game hitting a combined .245 with seven homers and 45 RBIs. Each had flaws. Howard has the bulk of the homers (six), but is batting .204; Helms entered at .290, but with zero homers.

Burrell came in with one hit in his previous 15 at-bats, a .067 funk that dipped his season mark to .237. His one long ball put him on pace for five in 2007. With two on Friday, that rate increases to 14.

"Let's talk after Game 162 and see how many he hits," Shane Victorino said. "It's just a matter of time for anybody."

It was a matter of time before Cubs starter Rich Hill (4-2) showed his mortality. The sizzling lefty came in with the National League's third-best ERA (1.73). Coupled with the fact that the Phillies were 4-9 against lefties this year -- and 0-3 at home -- things didn't look good for Philadelphia.

Not that Burrell would know, since he doesn't read the papers. Like Howard's pinch grand slam on Wednesday, Burrell's first poke turned a deficit into a one-run lead, at 3-2. It scored Aaron Rowand and Chase Utley, who were walked and hit by a pitch, respectively. The next shot came in the sixth, a two-run job. They were Burrell's first home runs since April 6.

"He came up big for us tonight," Victorino said. "He came up in situations where we needed him to come through, and he did. It's just a coincidence that it happened on a day that things were said in the paper about the middle of our lineup. He did what he needed to do."

The offense supported Cole Hamels (5-1), who survived giving up solo homers to Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez, and lasted seven innings.

There was irony in Soriano's homer, as he was Gillick's No. 1 offseason target before he signed an eight-year, $136 million deal with the Cubs. Gillick wanted Soriano to protect Howard in the order, and to play left field, which would have made Burrell or Rowand expendable, most likely Burrell.

If Burrell paid attention to such winter rumors, he made his feelings known Friday -- on the day his boss challenged him and his heart-of-the-order compatriots to produce.

When it was pointed out that Burrell was hitting .152 vs. lefties this season, he smirked and said, "You guys know more stats than everybody. I just saw the ball good tonight and hit them."

Far.

The key to Burrell's funk, as expressed by manager Charlie Manuel, is that through it all, Burrell had shown patience -- 31 walks against 24 strikeouts -- and had pounded some balls that were caught. Eventually, that combination has to pay dividends.

"Baseball is a funny game," Manuel said. "He had smoked some balls that were caught. Today, he smoked some balls and got them up in the air. That's the joy of baseball."

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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