Then the Phillies shortstop got to stroll around the bases as Sunday's hero, finally with something to show for a well-struck ball.
Rollins sent Josh Beckett's full-count slider over the right-field wall to break a tie in the seventh, sparking a six-run inning that downed the Red Sox, 11-6, in front of 45,141 at Citizens Bank Park.
"The last few days, I've been going pretty close to the way I felt at the start of 2007 -- stance, where my hands are going to the ball, the way I'm seeing the ball," Rollins said. "All I can do is continue to put good swings on the ball. And if they find some leather, that's bad; if they find some grass, that's good."
And if they find the seats, even better. It was Rollins' fifth home run of 2009, just two years after he slugged 30 -- and hit .296 -- en route to the National League Most Valuable Player Award.
"That's baseball," manager Charlie Manuel said. "He's been hitting about one or two balls hard a night, but they've been catching them. That's all part of the game. That's a good measure of who you are and everything -- it'll test you. ... Like Ted Williams said, every at-bat's an adventure. And that's kind of where Jimmy's at right now. He's going to be all right."
After his blast, Rollins' teammates followed suit, chasing Beckett. Pedro Feliz, whose 3-for-5 afternoon raised his average to .318, smacked a two-run double to right-center field. Two walks then loaded the bases for Rollins. He was promptly plunked near the ribs --"it got a little baby fat back there," he said -- for his third RBI. Shane Victorino walked to force in another run, so although Chase Utley struck out to strand three, the Phils were comfortably ahead.
It was a big win for Philadelphia, which managed to beat Boston's ace to stave off a three-game sweep. The Phillies also padded their NL East lead to four games as the Yankees crushed the Mets, 15-0.
"It's been kind of a rough week; it's been kind of long," said first baseman Ryan Howard, whose two-run double capped a four-run Phillies fifth. "Especially coming into today and this series, playing against a team -- to be able to do what we did today makes it that much more exciting."
The long week depleted the bullpen, which had thrown 24 innings over the past four days. The Phillies played three consecutive extra-inning games for the first time since 2000, and on Saturday, a 95-minute rain delay ended Antonio Bastardo's night after just one inning. Manuel said that he essentially only had four pitchers available for Sunday's finale: starter J.A. Happ, reliever Chan Ho Park, closer Ryan Madson and reliever Tyler Walker, who arrived before the game from Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
So things looked dicey when Happ got into early trouble. Rocco Baldelli and Nick Green opened the second with back-to-back homers. Boston would bat around, using two walks and two singles to plate another pair. By the time he headed back to the dugout, Happ had thrown 55 pitches in the game.
But he battled into the sixth. His line wasn't pretty -- allowing five runs on seven hits, six walks and three home runs in 5 2/3 innings -- but he escaped with a no-decision.
"Finally I was able to convince myself to slow down a little bit and try to hit my spots and actually pitch the count a little more, and that was the difference," Happ said. "I definitely knew that I needed to try to get through a few more to try to help us out."
Happ gave up a solo shot to Beckett -- who at Citizens Bank Park is now hitting 4-for-10 (.400) with two of his three career home runs -- in the sixth, but handed the ball to Park, who pitched quite effectively.
Manuel said that Park was unavailable Saturday because of soreness in his elbow. On Sunday, though, he was healthy enough to pick up his third win, allowing one unearned run on two hits over 2 1/3 innings. Madson pitched the ninth.
But the other relievers could rest, and thanks to Rollins' game-changing drive, the Phillies could at least walk away with one "W" against the Red Sox.
"It was definitely a big win to salvage one game out of the series," Victorino said. "They're a good team, so it's nice to get one victory."
David Gurian-Peck is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less