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Manuel keeps Werth in lineup's heart

Manuel keeps Werth in lineup's heart

PHILADELPHIA -- It's not from a lack of imagination or creativity. It's functionality.

Charlie Manuel's lineup has worked, so why change?

He trotted out his typical lineup -- the one that led the National League this season with 820 runs -- Monday for Game 4 of the NL Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Citizens Bank Park: shortstop Jimmy Rollins, center fielder Shane Victorino, second baseman Chase Utley, first baseman Ryan Howard, right fielder Jayson Werth, left fielder Raul Ibanez, third baseman Pedro Feliz, catcher Carlos Ruiz and pitcher Joe Blanton.

Asked why he keeps his lineup stagnant, Manuel answered, "I don't think our lineup is stagnant, by no means. Ask [Hiroki] Kuroda."

The Phillies scored six runs in 1 1/3 innings Sunday against Kuroda in an 11-0 victory over the Dodgers in Game 3.

Phillies at a glance
2009 record: 93-69
2008 record: 92-70
NL East champs
NLCS matchup:
Phillies at Dodgers
Postseason tix: Information

Werth: Heart of the order
Rollins: Breakout needed
Focus: One game at a time
Manuel: Mix & match
Howard: Ready for lefties

But about the only two spots in the Phillies lineup that have been interchangeable this season have been the fifth and sixth spots between Werth and Ibanez. Werth hit fifth 86 times and sixth 43 times this season. Ibanez hit fifth 67 times and sixth 50 times.

Entering the season, much of the focus centered around Ibanez, who replaced Pat Burrell in left field. But Werth's performance as a first-time everyday player proved just as important. The Phillies were counting on Werth, who hits right-handed, to hit behind Howard, breaking up the left-handed-hitting Utley, Howard and Ibanez.

"I've hit fifth a lot and I like hitting behind Howie even though it seems like there's no one on base hitting fifth," Werth said. "But it's exciting. I get to drive in a lot of runs and be a big part of the lineup right in the middle of it. It's a lot of fun, especially with this team."

Werth hit .268 with a career-high 36 homers and 99 RBIs. He hit .357 (5-for-14) with two homers and four RBIs in the NL Division Series against the Rockies and entered Monday's game hitting .100 (1-for-10) with one homer and two RBIs in the NLCS.

Werth has fit in quite nicely.

"I think the only thing you could switch now and then is Ibanez and Werth," Manuel said of his lineup. "I think the rest of it flows together, and I think that's our best lineup."

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

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