Climbing out of a hole they dug themselves a mere 159 games ago, the Phillies rode a 6-4 victory over John Smoltz and the Atlanta Braves all the way to a tie with the free-falling Mets for first place in the National League East. Unaccustomed as they are to the penthouse suite, the Phils looked mighty comfortable with their new digs.
Hordes of white towel -- not flag!! -- waving fans, a sight not seen in these parts in a very long time, whooped it up as the Phils jumped all over Smoltz in the first inning for four runs and added two more in the third. The usual suspects led the way, beginning with Jimmy Rollins, who stroked Smoltz' first offering of the proceedings up the middle and scored when his partner in speedy crimes Shane Victorino dropped a beautiful bunt down the third base line and Smoltz threw wildly to first. After the usually sure-handed Mark Teixeira booted Chase Utley's hard smash to first allowing Victorino to score, Ryan Howard lined a shot over the night field wall. Smoltz came into Citizens Bank Park on the record as the number one hater in all of baseball of the Phillies' home field's cozy dimensions. He left town with his grip on first place firmly in place though it must be said neither Howard's shot, which was hit so hard it was rising when stopped by a hand or seat, or Burrell's, which cleared the petunias by at least twenty rows at least, was nearly as cheap as the one Jeff Francoeur hit in the ninth off Brett Myers. What's sauce for the goose....
The Phils now control their own destiny. "All" they have to do is sweep the Washington Nationals this weekend in Philadelphia and watch the Mets hit rock bottom and baseball ignominy and the division title along with a large portion of vindication for one James Calvin Rollins will be theirs. The Nationals are no pushovers, just ask the Mets, and have played the role of spoiler well over the few years of their existence. But something tells me this Phillies team is destined to defy all the odds.
We won't have long to wait and learn the outcome.