Phillies 7, Reds 3

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PHILADELPHIA (AP)—Mike Lieberthal had played too many September games that didn’t matter and had too many September at-bats that didn’t mean much.

It turns out he can handle the pressure of a playoff chase quite well.

Lieberthal homered twice and drove in four runs as the Philadelphia Phillies beat Cincinnati 7-3 Friday night and reclaimed the NL wild-card lead.

“Being in a pennant race and coming to the field everyday is kind of a rush,” Lieberthal said.

The Phillies moved a half-game ahead of Florida, which lost 1-0 at Atlanta.

“Right now, it’s just half a game,” Lieberthal said. “Every game is going to make a big difference.”

The Phillies were in playoff contention in 2001, but Lieberthal, who’s played parts of the last 10 seasons with the Phillies, missed all but 34 games with an injured right knee.

Randy Wolf (16-9) won his fourth straight decision, giving up two runs and four hits in six shaky innings. He worked around four walks, striking out eight.

Wolf’s victory total is the highest by a Philadelphia pitcher since Curt Schilling won 17 in 1997. Wolf improved to 3-0 this season against the Reds and 5-1 lifetime.

The Reds lost their third in a row.

Wolf was aided by a three-run first inning. Marlon Byrd and Bobby Abreu were on with walks when Lieberthal homered off Josh Hall (0-1).

Lieberthal added a solo shot in the seventh, also over the left-field fence. He has 13 homers this season and it was his first multihomer game this year.

“The second half of the season, I feel much better,” he said.

Lieberthal has 13 RBIs in the last four games, going 6-for-16 with three homers and three doubles in that span. He’s added another threat in the middle of the lineup besides Jim Thome.

“You need that kind of help from the rest of the lineup,” manager Larry Bowa said. “It can’t be one guy all the time.”

There was more help from Byrd, who hit a run-scoring single in the second for a 4-0 lead. He added an RBI single in the sixth that made it 6-2.

Wolf, cheered on by his faithful upper-deck followers, “The Wolf Pack,” labored to hold the early lead.

Throwing more off-speed pitches than usual and working deep counts, Wolf walked Ray Olmedo to lead off the third. Hall bunted back to the mound, but Wolf’s throw hit Olmedo and bounced into left field.

Ryan Freel hit an RBI double and Juan Castro grounded out to score another run, making it 4-2. D’Angelo Jimenez walked, putting runners on the corners, but Wolf got Sean Casey and Wily Mo Pena to pop up and end the inning.

Again in the fifth, the Reds got two runners on with one out and again Wolf pitched out of it, striking out Jimenez and getting Casey on a comebacker.

Wolf appreciated Lieberthal’s offensive output.

“He’s had a great year so far, but his production has just been amazing lately,” Wolf said. “He’s just coming through when we need him.”

Hall gave up five earned runs on five hits and four walks in five innings of his fifth career start.

“It took a while to adjust to the mound. It’s the highest mound I’ve ever been on,” Hall said. “That’s no excuse, though. I didn’t pitch well.”

Hall also allowed a bit of a rarity when Thome tripled off him in the fifth for a 5-2 lead.

Abreu drew a two-out walk and Thome hit a liner at Freel in center field. Freel twisted the wrong way, regained his footing, then dropped to his knees in a feeble attempt to catch the ball.

The ball bounced over Freel’s glove, as Thome chugged around the bases and slid into third with his third triple of the season.

It was Thome’s 123rd RBI—the most by a Phillies player since Greg Luzinski’s 130 in 1977. He has an RBI in eight straight games and is one shy of tying his career high set in 2001.

Wolf, however, opened the sixth by allowing a single to Pena and walking Jason LaRue. Wolf ended the threat when he struck out the next three batters.

Pena hit a solo homer in the eighth off Dan Plesac.


Wolf now has a career-high 174 strikeouts. … Jimmy Rollins stole his 18th base for the Phillies. … Abreu walked three times. … Hall led off the fifth with a single for his first career hit. Hall also walked and scored in the third. … The boo-birds were out for Phillies LF Pat Burrell after he struck out in the sixth. … Casey went 0-for-3 against Wolf and is 3-for-19 in his career against him. … Cincinnati’s Ruben Mateo stuck out swinging allfour at-bats.

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