PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies had been pounded hard for a second straight day, after another tough loss cost them on two playoff fronts. Players had to be starting to feel strapped, especially after closer Brett Myers snapped at a reporter on Saturday night, illustrating the mounting tension. Yet before Sunday's desperately needed 14-2 exhale against the Padres, everything appeared the same. Jokes flew about center fielder Aaron Rowand's exhausting baserunning marathon the night before and with Myers regarding his passionate outburst. Others calmly played cards and argued over music, movies and who was going to win the Little League World Series.
"It had to be that way," catcher Chris Coste said. "If everybody is walking with their heads down, it can really wear on you. If you walk around with your heads down, that's going to carry on to the game. We knew that we just couldn't get swept. It was nice to get a good performance on every side of the ball." By the end of the day, Saturday seemed like it was eons ago. Myers chirped loudly in taking credit for the win by firing everyone up, and jokingly planned his next attack. For the first time since Tuesday, the Phillies could talk about their huge series against the Mets having salvaged the final game against the Padres. Jayson Werth led a 17-hit attack with a career-high five hits and four RBIs in the win that brought the Phillies to within three games of the National League Wild Card-leading Padres, instead of being five back. The Phils will now focus on the NL East-leading Mets, who arrive for a four-game series beginning Monday. "We did some things right and got out with a win," manager Charlie Manuel said. "We definitely needed a win. This was big." Resounding even. The Phillies dropped the first two games of this series in emotional fashion. A high slide by Carlos Ruiz propelled San Diego to a 14-3 win on Friday, and Philadelphia's bullpen turned a one-run eighth-inning lead into a 4-3 loss the next night. Already frustrated, Myers boiled over with the aforementioned tirade. "We scored 14 runs today," he said. "I'll take it." Few missed out of Sunday's convincing win. Ryan Howard, mostly dormant since July 27, when Chase Utley went on the disabled list, drove in four runs. Three came on a second-inning homer, his 34th, that turned a 3-0 lead into the makings of a laugher. "It felt pretty good," Howard said. "I got a good pitch and didn't miss, and it carried. Today, I was able to pick out pitches and lay off the tough ones." Pat Burrell scored three runs, and Coste also smacked a three-run homer. Every position player other than Greg Dobbs had at least one hit in raising Padres starter Tim Stauffer's ERA from a lofty 17.18 to a more unsightly 21.13. He gave up 11 runs on 11 hits. Kyle Kendrick (7-3), who entered the game as the recipient of nearly six runs of support per start, cruised through six innings, allowing one run. Leading, 6-1, in the fourth, he showed his poise, escaping a bases-loaded, no-out jam with zero damage. After a mound conference following a hit batsman that loaded the bases, Kendrick knew what he needed to do. "You have to minimize damage," said Kendrick, who celebrated his 23rd birthday on Sunday. "I was just trying to get a ground-ball double play, give up a run and get the next guy. To not give up a run was huge. It was still 6-1 and if they score three runs there, the momentum changes." Werth helped by tracking down Kevin Kouzmanoff's fly ball for the first out, then fired a strike to the plate to freeze Adrian Gonzalez on third. Kendrick struck out catcher Pete Laforest and got Stauffer to ground to third to end the threat. Kendrick called Werth's play "huge" and Werth said, "it might have been the biggest thing I did all day. I was glad to get the throw right on line." "[Kendrick] seems to never get rattled, because he knows that he always has that one pitch, that two-seamer, as long as he keeps it down," Coste said. "That's why he has success, because he knows he can get a double-play ball. He doesn't walk a ton of guys and consistently puts the ball on the ground. Even the best Major League hitters don't tee off on him." Kendrick left after the sixth and newcomer John Ennis tossed the final three innings for the save in his Phillies debut. Jovial in the clubhouse, all the attention focused on the NL East race, with the leaders scheduled to arrive on Monday. "Just because it's the Mets, it's going to be a big series," Coste said. "And also because it's down the stretch we come. There's so much pride in both clubhouses. Whether we're 20 games up or 20 games back, both teams don't want to lose this series. When you throw in the race we're in, it makes it even more interesting."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.