"He was just kind of cruising through," Jayson Werth was saying after yesterday's 5-1 Phillies victory.
When the fourth inning ended, Jimenez had allowed two hits and zero runs, faced just one batter more than the minimum. Chase Utley had struck out twice, both times looking. Ryan Howard had watched strike three once, too.
When Werth entered the batter's box to start the Phillies' fifth, Jimenez' strike-to-ball ratio was about two to one. Eight pitches later, that ratio had leveled a bit, and by the time the inning ended, Jimenez' cruise was swirling around inside a wind-whipped, sun-splashed, baseball Bermuda Triangle.
The Phillies vowed that once the postseason came, they would change into the smart, patient, pitch-absorbing offense that won it all in 2008, shake off those bad at-bats with guys at third and less than two outs, shake off those 2-0 swings at breaking balls in the dirt.
"We know how to do all that," Charlie Manuel said after yesterday's game. "And that's why you talk about us when we don't do it."
Here's what we so often talk about when they do: Werth's approach. Because it is contagious. "Sometimes those great at-bats fly under the radar," Raul Ibanez said. "But we notice. And it makes you think, 'Hey I want to go up there and have that kind of at-bat.' "
Werth led off the fifth inning. He walked on a 3-2 pitch, the way he always seems to, fouled off a couple of those nasty things the way he always seems to. "It's part of my game," he said. "I like to work counts and see pitches. I get frustrated with myself when I have a bad at-bat or make a quick out or something like that. I definitely like to work the pitcher."
On first base, he jumped around, feigning steals, inducing the Rockies' pitcher to step off continually.
Ibanez, who followed Werth, worked his count to 3-1, then ripped a double into the rightfield corner.
Werth scored. Pedro Feliz, who loves to pull the ball, bounced a 2-0 pitch to the right side, advancing Ibanez to third. Carlos Ruiz got his own 3-2 count, then singled in Ibanez.
By the end of next inning, the Phillies led, 5-0. Howard banged one off the wall for a double. Werth got too much height on a blast and it crashed back into play off the centerfield wall for a triple.
Jimenez, who needed 45 pitches to record the first 12 outs, threw 47 to get three more, before being lifted.
There were plenty of heroes yesterday. Cliff Lee was magnificent. Howard had two hits, Ibanez had two hits, Jimmy Rollins made a ridiculous catch on a popup that started falling down the leftfield line and finally landed in the infield.
Werth seemed to be involved with everything. He caught the first out of the game after running around much of rightfield. After he threw out Yorvit Torrealba trying to advance from second to third to end the second inning, Lee retired the next 14 batters he faced.
It wasn't all good. He stood and watched his triple, and it cost him a chance at an inside-the-park home run. He lost a ninth-inning liner amid the frenzied towels of the record crowd of 46,452, and it might have cost his pitcher a shutout.
"Between the wind and the sun in rightfield, it was probably the toughest day I've had defensively in Philadelphia," he said. But he played the game without fear. And when it ended, his day seemed as relentless as that triggering at-bat.
Plenty of players don't in these spots. They've passed through this city in every sport, their names still evoking as much ire as adulation. Werth was asked after yesterday's game whether he thought there was such a thing as a postseason personality.
"Wow, I don't know the answer to that," he said at first. "I know what you're getting at, but I have no idea."
A little later though, he came up with one. "It's obvious that these games are bigger, the crowds are into it, there's a lot of media," he said. "But we're still out there playing the same game that we played when we were 8, 9 years old. The key really is to stay focused, play hard, and let the chips fall where they may."
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