Rollins, Werth help Phillies erase 4-run deficit to beat Nationals 7-6, pull within 1 1/2 games

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WASHINGTON (AP)—Jimmy Rollins and the Philadelphia Phillies put together yet another comeback victory in a season full of them, then ducked into a cramped clubhouse Thursday night and got to celebrate something they found equally exciting.

A half-hour after rallying from a four-run deficit to beat the Washington Nationals 7-6 on Rollins’ tiebreaking RBI double, the Phillies watched on TV as the team they’re chasing in the NL East—the New York Mets—lost in extra innings.

Put the results together, and Philadelphia moved within 1 1/2 games of the division lead. Remember: This is a team that has not spent a day in first place all season, and trailed the Mets by seven games on Sept. 12.

When the winning run crossed in the 10th to give the Florida Marlins an 8-7 victory over New York, more than a dozen Phillies players and coaches thrust their arms in the air—many holding cups of beer aloft—and screamed. Very loudly.

They clapped, they hugged, they high-fived.

Oh, the race is on.

“We’re here now. How? I don’t know,” said Rollins, who also scored the tying run in the seventh after doubling. “But it’s sweet now, and that’s all that matters.”

The Phillies trailed 6-2 entering the seventh, but Jayson Werth delivered a pinch-hit, three-run homer and Chase Utley’s grounder tied it.

It all added up to the Phillies’ seventh victory in eight games—and the team’s 47th come-from-behind victory, the most in the majors.

“I just sit there and watch and concentrate on pitchers getting people out,” manager Charlie Manuel said.

“It’s fun, and it’s about time for everything to even out,” he added, referring to how his team fell just short of qualifying for the playoffs in 2005 and 2006.

He had sounded an optimistic note before the opener of a four-game series at Washington that will mark the end of baseball at RFK Stadium. The Nationals, who took two of three from the Mets this week, move to a new park in 2008.

“We’re still looking at the division. Things can happen. We could win three in a row, they could lose three in a row,” Manuel said before the game. “We’re still in it, and we’ve still got a chance.”

Philadelphia looked on its way to blowing an opportunity against the lowly Nationals, though, thanks in part to a poor outing by starter Kyle Lohse. When he left after only 37 pitches, the Phillies trailed 6-2. His line: two innings, six runs, six hits, two walks, no strikeouts, one hit batter.

But that big seventh tied it for Philadelphia. And in the eighth, Jonathan Albaladejo (1-1), Washington’s fourth pitcher, walked Carlos Ruiz, who stole second.

With two outs, Rollins lined a shot just inside the first-base bag to drive in the tiebreaking run and draw chants of “M-V-P!” from a loud group of Phillies fans in the crowd of 19,966—probably the same folks who chanted “Let’s go, Marlins!” while walking out of the ballpark.

“Everything he does sets the table for us,” Manuel said about Rollins. “He plays shortstop like Ozzie Smith, so why can’t he be the MVP?”

J.C. Romero (1-2) earned the win by escaping a two-on, one-out jam in the seventh, getting pinch-hitter Tony Batista to ground into a 5-4-3 double play. Romero hopped off the mound, and first baseman Ryan Howard pumped a fist.

Tom Gordon came in to get two outs with a man on second in the eighth, and closer Brett Myers worked around a one-out single in the ninth for his 18th save.

“Their bullpen deserves the credit,” Nationals manager Manny Acta said. “They just shut us down for seven innings.”

This game ended as well as it began for the Phillies: Utley’s two-out triple was followed by Howard’s 41st homer to make it 2-0 in the first inning. Howard stopped to admire his shot to right.

Nationals starter Jason Bergmann settled into a nice groove after that, and didn’t allow another run. The right-hander went six innings, and it was when he left that the problems began for Washington.

Luis Ayala came on to begin the seventh and allowed the only two batters he faced to reach base. He was replaced by lefty Arnie Munoz, brought in to face lefty pinch-hitter Pete Laforest—but Manuel countered with another pinch-hitter, Werth. And he put Munoz’s fourth pitch into the upper deck in left.

It was a reminder that Philadelphia does, after all, own the NL’s highest-scoring offense.

“It’s a tremendous lineup,” Acta said.

Notes

Nationals 3B Ryan Zimmerman stretched to reach over a railing and catch a foul pop in the fourth. … Phillies OF Shane Victorino was back in the lineup for the first time since Sept. 10, only his fifth start since injuring his right calf July 30. He also sported a mohawk haircut.

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