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Phils channel history in retaking first place

Phils channel history in retaking first place

PHILADELPHIA -- The scene felt familiar to almost everybody Sunday night at Citizens Bank Park.

Shane Victorino noticed it, too.

"I guess you could say it was deja vu," Victorino said after a convincing 11-5 victory over the New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park which put the Phillies back in first place in the National League East.

The Mets had a two-run lead with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning when it unexpectedly turned into October 2008.

Playing the role of CC Sabathia: Johan Santana.

Playing the role of Brett Myers: Jamie Moyer.

Playing the role of Victorino: Victorino.

Santana walked Carlos Ruiz to load the bases when Moyer, a career .131 hitter, stepped into the batter's box. Santana threw a couple fastballs outside the strike zone to make it 2-0. The crowd roared after the second pitch and continued to cheer as the third pitch arrived, as if it could will Santana to walk Moyer to score a run.

The third pitch came in for a strike. Undaunted, the crowd continued to cheer. The fourth pitch was a ball to make it 3-1.

Now, the fans really sensed it.

They felt they could rattle Santana, a two-time Cy Young Award winner.

"I was definitely getting caught up in the on-deck circle," Victorino said. "I was like, 'Come on Jamie, let's do this. Figure out a way to get on base.'"

The moment reminded Phillies fans of Game 2 of the 2008 National League Division Series against the Milwaukee Brewers, when Sabathia and Myers battled in an epic nine-pitch at-bat with two outs in the second inning. Myers walked to extend the inning with two outs. Sabathia, who seemed flustered, walked Jimmy Rollins on four pitches to load the bases.

Victorino then hit a 1-2 pitch off Sabathia for a grand slam to give the Phillies a four-run lead in a 5-2 victory that remains one of the most memorable moments of the team's 2008 World Series championship season.

Santana's next pitch to Moyer was a strike to make it 3-2. Moyer fouled off the sixth pitch of the at-bat to stay alive.

Santana's seventh pitch -- a fastball -- was a ball to walk Moyer to score Raul Ibanez to make it 5-4.

"There were a number of foul balls, and he really battled in that at-bat," Moyer said about Myers' at-bat against Sabathia. "Actually, for me [Santana] did me a favor and got behind 2-0. He worked himself back in the count, but I think for me the biggest pitch was the 3-2 pitch. I was able to foul it off and he ended up throwing ball four.

"I guess it shows that we're all human."

Moyer said he didn't think the crowd rattled Santana.

"The 40,000-plus don't have bats," he said.

Victorino suddenly found himself reliving that unforgettable night against Sabathia and the Brewers, albeit under much different circumstances. That was the playoffs. This was early May. But good theatre is good theatre. So Victorino followed the script and smoked a 1-0 fastball to left-center field for a grand slam to give the Phillies an 8-5 lead.

Victorino had been 2-for-24 (.083) in his career against Santana until the slam.

"Just a rough night," Santana said.

Two batters later, Chase Utley hit a two-run homer to right to make it 10-5.

Santana's 10 runs allowed set a career high. He had allowed eight or more runs previously just twice in his storied career: eight runs against the Chicago White Sox on July 23, 2002, and nine runs against the New York Yankees on June 14, 2009.

It was the first time a Mets pitcher had allowed 10 or more runs since Orlando Hernandez allowed 11 against the Phillies on Aug. 15, 2006.

Moyer had allowed a three-run homer to David Wright in the first inning and a two-run homer to Rod Barajas, who has turned into a Phillies killer after having a rough season with Philadelphia in 2007. Barajas is hitting .542 (13-for-24) with seven homers and 15 RBIs in his past seven games at Citizens Bank Park.

"The big innings are killing me," said Moyer, who is 3-2 with a 5.70 ERA. "It's just a matter of trying to find a way to stay away from that and make a pitch."

The Phillies had lost eight of 12 games following an ugly 9-1 loss to the Mets on Friday, which had Phillies manager Charlie Manuel expressing his concerns about a lack of hustle and focus. The Phillies rallied back to beat the Mets on Saturday and Sunday. Roy Halladay pitched a three-hit shutout in a 10-0 victory Saturday. Moyer and Victorino helped the Phillies win the series Sunday.

From a team that looked dead to a team that looked full of life in just two days.

"Never second guess this team, because we show up to play every day," Victorino said. "It was just one of those things we were going through. It was just something that was missing. Two wins like this, especially against a team that was so hot, just shows that team shows up to play every day."

Todd Zolecki 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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