Phillies stave off Cubs' rally to break .500

Phillies stave off Cubs' rally to break .500

Phillies stave off Cubs' rally to break .500
CHICAGO -- Everything aligned perfectly for the Phillies on Thursday at Wrigley Field.

They had an opportunity to move above .500 for the first time since Opening Day with three things working in their favor: Roy Halladay, Chris Volstad and Carlos Ruiz.

The Phillies had lost Halladay's past five starts, while the Cubs were 0-7 behind Volstad this season. In fact, Volstad had not earned a win in 18 starts dating to July. Now, the cliche is anything can happen in baseball, but the odds were stacked heavily in the Phillies' favor that Halladay, who is one of the best pitchers in baseball, would snap his streak against Volstad, who entered the night with a 6.92 ERA and had not earned a win in 10 months, especially with Ruiz swinging one of the hottest bats in baseball.

It happened exactly that way in an 8-7 victory, but not before some ninth-inning drama when rookie Jake Diekman allowed four runs, forcing the Phillies to use Jonathan Paplebon for an out to get his 11th save.

"It got a little testy, didn't it?" Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "Fans didn't like it. I heard a lot of cursing. They got to cuss me out. That's all right, I guess."

But the Phillies took away plenty from Thursday's victory. They are 20-19, extending their winning streak to five games. Halladay improved to 4-3, allowing seven hits, three runs and striking out four in eight innings. And Ruiz went 4-for-5 with three RBIs. Chooch ranks third in the National League in hitting (.363), eighth in on-base percentage (.405) and fifth in slugging percentage (.619).

But finally getting that winning record was the biggest thing.

"I think it's important," Halladay said. "I think sometimes when you start thinking about it too much it's hard to put together a run like that, so to get it out of the way and hopefully get ourselves to where we aren't worrying about it will be good."

The Phillies were 0-6 in their previous attempts to move over .500, the most notable loss coming May 2 in Atlanta, where Halladay blew a six-run lead in a 15-13 loss to the Braves in 11 innings at Turner Field.

Halladay carried a 107-0 record into that start when his team provided him a four-run lead. He earned a no-decision, keeping that mark unblemished, but his teams fell to 110-9 when spotted a four-run lead.

It was a bad loss in every way. But Halladay, along with Ruiz and the rest of the Phillies offense, made sure it would not happen again. The Phillies took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Ruiz, who is making an incredible case to make his first National League All-Star team, singled to center field with two outs to score Jimmy Rollins. Halladay allowed a run in the bottom of the inning to tie the game, but he locked in after that, retiring 16 of 19 batters until Starlin Castro hit a solo homer to left field in the seventh.

The Phillies jumped on Volstad in the second, scoring three runs to take a 4-1 lead. They made it 5-1 in the fifth when Ruiz singled to score Hunter Pence, and took an 8-2 lead in the seventh, when Ruiz doubled to score Pence.

Ruiz had the sixth four-hit game of his career. It was the first time a Phillies player had four hits this season.

"He's the best catcher in the National League right now," Halladay said. "We've said it for years. Unfortunately you have to really hit to get that notoriety, and he's doing that right now. Hopefully people take notice."

Said Manuel: "Carlos has been hitting ever since Spring Training. He's hot. He's been playing great, man. I can't say enough about him. And good he is, because we definitely need it. We need every bit of that. What he's doing, he's good. He stays strong on his backside. He just goes with the pitches. Strokes the ball. Keeps his hands above the ball and hammers down through it, if you watch him. He just hits line drives. That's good. He's been fantastic. He has a short, quick swing right now. Very controlled, his swing."

The Phillies are hitting the ball much better and pitching much better, save that performance in the ninth inning. It comes at a good time. The Phillies open a three-game series Friday against the Boston Red Sox before playing the Washington Nationals in a three-game series beginning Monday.

"That's a big test for us," Manuel said. "Just like right there at the end."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.