A few minutes later, he was trotting home, and the Phillies were following their anointed sparkplug to an 8-2 win over the San Francisco Giants.
A lot of things are flowing in a positive direction for this baseball team, the most important of them being their pitching. Last night, it was Joe Blanton recovering from a monstrous first-inning homer by Andres Torres to hold the Giants to two runs in 6 1/3 innings. For the fifth straight night, an opponent failed to score more than three runs, which is pretty much how the last month has gone for the Phillies' rejuvenated staff.
Chase Utley went 2-for-4 with a double, a run and an RBI in his second game back from a 7-week stay on the disabled list. Domonic Brown one-upped Torres' home run with his eighth-inning shot to the second deck in right-center, then obliged the cheering crowd by reappearing from the dugout with a wave of the hand. (For the record: First big-league pinch-hit home run, first curtain call.)
But the story of the night - and, the Phillies hope, the story of the rest of the season - was the performance from their dynamo at the top of the order. After his triple helped tie the game at 1-1 in the bottom of the third, Rollins went on to record two more hits, finishing a double shy of the cycle. The biggest hit of them all came with two outs in the fourth inning, when he launched a three-run homer into the rightfield seats off a pitch from Giants starter Matt Cain.
"I think everybody knows as Jimmy goes, we go, and tonight was just another testament to that," Jayson Werth said.
From there, the Phillies rolled. They improved to 68-51, winning their second straight over the Giants and their fourth straight overall. Werth went 2-for-4 with an RBI double. Raul Ibanez and Carlos Ruiz both contributed triples, giving the Phillies their first three-triple game since 2008 (and the first game with triples by three different players since September 2006).
Rollins, meanwhile, continued to show signs of turning his season around. He spent 2 months on the disabled list in the spring with a strained calf. Then, just as he appeared to be finding his groove, he fouled a ball off his foot, missing three games and battling the pain for countless more.
Not until last weekend's series against the Mets did he begin to feel like his old self.
"It never hurt to run straight, even when I first got back," Rollins said. "It was always trying to round the bag or push off laterally. Game 2 in New York was the first time it didn't hurt to turn. I felt it a little bit, but it wasn't bothersome. I felt pretty good about that."
Since that second game in New York, he is 7-for-19 with five runs, six RBI and four stolen bases, two of them coming last night.
On July 21, when the Phillies lost for the sixth time in their first seven games after the All-Star break, Rollins was hitting .226. On Aug. 1, when Ryan Howard suffered a sprained ankle in a win over the Nationals, Rollins was hitting .238. Now, he is up to .253, with a .295 average and .374 on- base percentage in the last 25 games.
During that stretch, the Phillies are 20-5. On the season, they are 38-22 (.633) in games in which Rollins starts.
After last night's victory, which kept the wild-card-leading Phils 2 1/2 games behind the Braves in the NL East, Werth relayed a story about a conversation he recently overheard. Somebody asked Charlie Manuel if Jimmy Rollins could hit. The Phils manager responded, "Bet your sweet ass."
"I mentioned that to J-Roll tonight," Werth said. "Bet your sweet ass he can hit."
Tuesday marked what Jamie Moyer calls his "4-week anniversary" from the last time he threw a baseball. The 47-year-old free-agent-to-be, who expects to miss the rest of the season with a strained flexor pronator tendon and a sprained UCL, said his plan is to begin rehabbing in another 2 weeks with the intent of being ready by spring training . . . The Phillies will face several interesting pitchers over the next week: Nationals rookie phenom Stephen Strasburg on Saturday, followed by righty Brett Myers on Monday and recently traded lefty J.A. Happ on Wednesday . . . First baseman Ross Gload was in the starting lineup for the first time since straining his groin against the Dodgers last week.