Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Phillies Walk Off Again, Manuel Wonders Where This Was A Month Ago

Charlie Manuel could be forgiven for wondering where all this was a few weeks ago.

For the second night in a row, the Phillies scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth to beat the Colorado Rockies, this time by a 5-4 score, at Citizens Bank Park. In fact, the Phils were down 4-1 heading into the eighth inning but, thanks to a two-run homer by Darin Ruf, the Phils entered the ninth down by one.

Man, that Ryne Sandberg really knows how to bring out the “clutch” in everybody, doesn’t he?

With last night’s win, the Phillies took three out of four games from the Rockies, giving Sandberg a 4-3 record in his first full week as Phillies skipper. That’s not bad considering the Phils didn’t score a run for him in his first two-and-a-half games.

Last night, it was Jimmy Rollins, Michael Young and Domonic Brown providing the late-inning heroics. With two out and no one on, Rollins doubled down the right field line, then stole third base. He then scored on an infield dribbler by Young. After a walk to Utley put Young at second, Brown hammered a first-pitch hanging breaking ball to right field, easily scoring Young for the Phillies’ second straight walk-off win.

A 4-19 stretch after the All-Star break got Charlie Manuel fired. This… this is much better.

“Positive energy goes a long way,” Sandberg said after the game.

Call it energy, vibes, karma or just the scales of baseball fairness evening out a bit, Sandberg is going out of his way to make the Phillies focus on being more team-oriented. And so far it seems to be paying off, even if it is in some nebulous, in-calculable way.

“I think we’ve got 30 games left and we’re trying to make a statement coming into next year,” Brown said. “We’re having a lot of fun and we’re making sure that we prepare the right way, and going out and working hard.” – quotes per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki

Of course, Brown is one of those eager-eyed and hungry young players, along with Ruf and Cody Asche, who are still trying to make an impression on Sandberg. They haven’t been tainted by the stain of Jonathan Papelbon‘s reported clubhouse cancer. Still, it’s good to see the Phillies play hard and show a little more energy than they had under Manuel.

One of the most positive developments in this lost 2013 season is the performance of Ruf, who has slumped at times but has also provided some sorely needed right-handed power, even if not much of it has come with runners on base. He has 9 HRs this year, but only 15 RBIs, and came into last night with a batting average of just .120 in 25 at-bats with runners in scoring position. Still, Ruf’s two-run home run in the eighth inning gave him seven homers this month, tied for sixth in the Majors behind Miguel Cabrera, Chris Davis, Alfonso Soriano, Donnie Murphy and Justin Upton, who have all hit eight.

Not only that, Ruf has played a capable right field since being moved over there, certainly looking better than Delmon Young did (although I fully admit that is a pretty low bar to hurdle). At the very least, he’s making Ruben Amaro think about making him an every day right fielder in 2014.

Hey, if Darren Daulton can play 70 games as a right fielder in ’97, Ruf can probably hack it out there too (although maybe comparing roster decisions to those made in ’97 when the team went 68-94 may not be the wisest thing).

On the mound, it was another frustrating evening for Kyle Kendrick who, after cruising through the first five innings, gave up a three-run homer to Wilin Rosario in the sixth, which put the Phils in a 4-1 hole. Rosario, by the way, is 11 for 25 with 4 HRs and 10 RBIs in seven games this year against the Phillies. #PhillieKiller!

Kendrick continues to cost himself millions of dollars with every second-half performance, now 3-7 with a 6.45 ERA in his last 10 starts. Goodbye, contract extension!

And the Phillies young bullpen continued their recent string of solid pitching, giving the Phils four innings of shut out ball last night. Zach Miner pitched two scoreless innings, B.J. Rosenberg pitched a scoreless 8th, and Cesar Jimenez picked up the win with a scoreless 9th.

Even though the Phillies are 57-70, 20 games behind Atlanta and 15 1/2 out of the wild card, these last few games have been a breath of fresh air. It’s always questionable just what kind of effect a managerial change will have on a team, and it’s also questionable how much of an effect Sandberg’s recent changes to the team’s schedule and clubhouse have had on the field.

At the very least, the Phils are showing more life in these last few games, which is much more entertaining than the funeral dirge being displayed before this week’s series against Colorado.

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