Phillies Notebook: Busy week ahead for Rollins to prepare for Phillies' postseason

Posted: September 27, 2010

With a six-game lead over the Braves in the National League East and a five-game lead over the Giants for homefield advantage throughout the playoffs, today could mark the start of the Phillies' least dramatic week of the season.

For Jimmy Rollins, though, it could be crucial.

The shortstop entered yesterday's 7-3 loss to the Mets as a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the eighth inning and played the top of the ninth at short, his first action since he strained his right hamstring on Sept. 8.

With six games remaining, Rollins expects to be in the lineup today for the start of some pre-playoff cramming. Although fill-in Wilson Valdez singled and scored a run yesterday and is hitting .405 over his last 13 games, the Phillies would love to get Rollins in a groove before the postseason.

"I'll be playing [today]," Rollins said before hustling off to catch the team train to Washington where the Phillies open a three-game series against the Nationals tonight.

The weather, which calls for rain throughout the afternoon and evening, could preclude that from happening. But whenever Rollins finally returns to the lineup, he will be looking to shake off his latest batch of rust in an injury-plagued season. In his only at-bat yesterday, he grounded out on the first pitch he saw from Mets righty Elmer Dessens to end the inning with Jayson Werth on second base.

Rollins has played in just 83 games this season thanks to two calf strains, a bruised foot and this hamstring injury. His career-low for a season is 137 games, which came in 2008, when he missed 3 weeks with a sprained ankle. Rollins, who hit .250 last season, is hitting .244 this year. His career-low came in 2002, when he hit .245 in his second full season in the majors.

The Phillies' initial plan was to start Rollins yesterday, but manager Charlie Manuel pushed that back a day because of some lingering soreness in Rollins' hamstring.

"He's been running OK," said Manuel, who added that he plans on starting Rollins today. "I wouldn't have put him out there if I didn't think he could run."

Pinch decision

After Wilson Valdez led off the fifth inning with a single to bring the pitcher's spot in the order to the plate, Charlie Manuel made what might have seemed to be a curious decision. Rather than calling on veteran righthanded hitters Ben Francisco or Mike Sweeney to face Mets lefty Pat Misch, the Phils manager tapped September call-up John Mayberry Jr. to do the job.

The move worked. Mayberry legged out an infield single to put runners on first and second with no out. Three batters later, Chase Utley hit his 16th home run, a three-run shot with two outs that cut the Phillies' deficit to 5-3.

Sweeney eventually pinch-hit in the ninth inning, leading off with a fly-out to rightfield.

Advantage, Phillies

The Phillies, who finished their home schedule with an announced crowd of 45,302, set single-season records for total attendance (3,647,249), average attendance (45,028) and sellouts (81). And there could be plenty of baseball still to play at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies need just two wins in their final six games to clinch homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. That would also give them the option of beginning the division series on Wednesday, Oct. 6, which would enable them to use their top three starters for all five potential games.

The Phillies (93-63) lead the Giants (88-68) by five games for the best record in the NL.


The Mets' Carlos Beltran hit two home runs yesterday, one off Cole Hamels, the other off Ryan Madson. The homer off Madson snapped the righthander's scoreless inning streak at 12 2/3 . . . Chase Utley has reached base safely in 25 consecutive games.

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