PHILADELPHIA -- Aaron Rowand was in no mood to argue balls and strikes with home-plate umpire Bob Davidson in the eighth inning on Tuesday night. Not that Rowand had a beef with Davidson. Quite the opposite, actually. He had just watched a letter-high pitch sail over the plate, and he held his breath.
Davidson decided the pitch was up in the zone and Rowand's at-bat continued. Rowand didn't let the next one pass, slamming a two-out homer to left to give the Phillies a 4-3 win. "It could have just as easily been turned around, and I could have been punched out," Rowand commented on Davidson's close call the pitch before. In addition to Rowand's dramatic homer, a high shot that left little doubt, he had two doubles and finished with three runs. The All-Star center fielder also saved a run, throwing out pitcher Jason Bergmann at the plate in the second inning. His play sparked an otherwise unenthusiastic offense. The Phillies were quietly humming along Tuesday after scoring in bundles over the weekend in San Diego. A sixth-inning sacrifice fly from Pat Burrell had tied the game at 3, but it provided all the excitement for a while. The Nationals' runs came in bunches. Pitcher Kyle Kendrick gave up a bases-loaded, base-clearing double in the fourth. But he got some help from his teammates. Catcher Carlos Ruiz drove in a run in the second and, in the fifth inning, picked off Felipe Lopez at first. Jimmy Rollins launched his 20th homer of the season in the third inning to put the Phils ahead by two. Burrell's sac fly took Kendrick off the hook for the loss, keeping his career record at 4-1. Kendrick said afterward that he fought his command -- specifically in the fourth inning. He allowed a runner to third with just one out, and in worrying about the potential run scoring, walked and plunked consecutive batters. All three scored with a double in the gap by Brian Schneider. "My command was a little off," said Kendrick, who threw 46 of 82 pitches for strikes. "The pitch was up." Kendrick's calling card since joining the Phillies big-league club has been his ability to get out of jams. Most of the time he does it with his sinker, which induces inning-ending double plays. The pitch up to Schneider was hammered, but Kendrick's psyche wasn't. He continued to pitch, and left after another respectable numbers day -- five hits and three earned runs allowed. And then ... "Our bullpen came in and shut them down," Manuel said. The Phillies' relievers combined for 3 1/3 innings of hitless ball, with the only hiccup a ninth-inning walk issued by Antonio Alfonseca, who picked up his eighth save. The win was the Phillies' fourth in a row. They remained five games behind the Ntional League East-leading Mets, who beat the Pirates on Tuesday. And Rowand was the one keeping them in it. "Rowand's got a lot of intangibles," manager Charlie Manuel said. "I think anybody will tell you that. " Schneider asked Davidson where the questionable eighth-inning pitch was and got the response that it was high, according to Rowand. The next pitch was launched high enough that Schneider may not have seen it from his crouched position. The home run was Rowand's 14th, and completed his fourth game with three or more extra base-hits this season. His nabbing of Bergmann at the plate was the Phillies' 31st outfield assist, best in the Majors. As Manuel said after the game, team numbers are more Rowand's style. "All the runs count when you win by one run," Rowand said. "Not just the home run. [Rollins] hit a home run, too." Bergmann left after 2 1/3 innings with a tight left hamstring, an injury apparently suffered trying to score from second. Rowand said the sharply hit ball off the bat of Ronnie Belliard made the play manageable. Bergmann was beat by a couple feet. It was a play befitting Rowand's All-Star season, and raised questions after the game about his future. The former Chicago White Sox player will be a free agent after the season, but said he hasn't engaged in any contract talks with Phillies brass. Nor has he been told of any trade rumors involving his name. "I'm trying to win," Rowand said. "I'll try and deal with that later. I haven't heard anything. I haven't expected anything."
Stephen Fastenau is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.