Phils beat Marlins, pad division lead

Posted: September 15, 2010

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. - Usually, Charlie Manuel arrives early to the ballpark, many times before noon. He'll sometimes schedule a morning walk before reporting for work, but it typically does not preclude him from spending hours upon hours at the stadium.

On Wednesday afternoon, he sat in his office before the Phillies beat the Florida Marlins, 10-5, and turned on the computer. That's how he followed the Washington Nationals' victory over Atlanta. His players, coming in and out of the clubhouse, could watch on the many TV sets.

At least most of them did.

"Wait," backup catcher Brian Schneider said as he sat at his locker. "Washington already won?"

A few teammates and coaches chuckled. He may have been the only one in the room who didn't know yet. And that's only because he was left scrambling to make final plans for his wife to go into an induced labor Thursday to deliver the couple's third child.

The Phillies have watched the scoreboard for weeks. They have three more games - against last-place Washington - before the Braves come to Citizens Bank Park for a series that will undoubtedly have a postseason feel.

But it was here, in sticky and quiet Sun Life Stadium, where the Phillies may have made their most significant move toward securing a fourth consecutive National League East crown. The Phillies know this: They cannot be worse than tied with Atlanta when Monday's series begins. With 15 games to play, they have a three-game lead.

"We're not in control of it right now," Manuel said. "We have a lead. We can definitely control what we're going to do by winning."

Atlanta dropped its first series at home since April. Here, the Phillies swept a team that had truly mailed it in. On Wednesday, the Marlins started Jorge Sosa, a reliever who hadn't started a game since July 27, 2007. After ace Josh Johnson was shut down for the remainder of the season with a strained back muscle, Florida didn't bother to call up an extra starting pitcher.

So that meant it was the Marlins' bullpen against Roy Halladay. Mismatch of the year?

He was far from his sharpest, but with a massive lead, Halladay could throw as many strikes as possible. He allowed three runs on 10 hits in six innings. He did strike out nine to give him 210 for the season, a career high.

"It wasn't the prettiest," Halladay said.

Halladay won his 19th game of the season. With one more victory, he will become the Phillies' first 20-game winner since Steve Carlton in 1982, and the first righthander to do it since Robin Roberts in 1955. Halladay's next start comes Tuesday against Atlanta.

He'll have an extra day of rest before then, which probably isn't a terrible idea at this point. In his last five starts, Halladay has a 4.41 ERA. He leads the majors in innings pitched. Both pitcher and manager scoffed at the idea of fatigue.

"He was kind of sluggish," Manuel said. "He didn't have his best stuff or command. It was a night where he had to battle."

About the only negative Wednesday was Brad Lidge. He began the ninth inning even though the Phillies had a six-run lead and proceeded to walk three batters. One of the free passes scored a Marlins run, and Manuel had seen enough. Of the 23 pitches Lidge threw, only eight were strikes.

Now Halladay, who has never been this close to tasting the postseason, faces arguably the most important start of his career.

"From my standpoint," Halladay said, "I expect to do well every time I go out. My expectations are the same. My approach is the same."

Contact staff writer Matt Gelb

at 215-854-2928 or mgelb@phillynews.com.

Follow on Twitter @magelb.

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