Life is good for these Phillies after six games. The opening homestand ended Thursday with a 16-hit, near-flawless rout of New York at Citizens Bank Park. They will take a 5-1 record on the road, with three of the Four Aces to pitch at Turner Field in a weekend set.
Six of eight regulars are hitting over .300, the lone exceptions being Shane Victorino (.261) and Carlos Ruiz (.176). The Phillies have had the leadoff man reach base in 14 of their last 16 innings - including all eight innings Thursday. Eight of those times, that runner has scored.
"That's pretty good," Charlie Manuel said.
The manager was being modest.
"It's better than I expected, really," Manuel said. "At the same time, we've played six games. We have to keep going. It's best not to talk about it and let it happen."
Yes, it is best to seek context. Remember, the Phillies began 2010 at 5-1 with a blistering offense. Actually, in each of the last two seasons, the Phillies have scored a total of 43 runs in their first six games.
Without Chase Utley and Jayson Werth, the first six games of 2011 went just as the first six of 2010 did.
This season, the Phillies are hitting .353 with a .905 OPS as a team. A year ago, six games produced a .315 batting average and a .917 OPS, demonstrating a clear difference. These Phillies are producing with more singles rather than walks and home runs.
"We know we're a capable lineup," leftfielder Raul Ibanez said. "We're doing a nice job of stringing together good at-bats, getting people on base, and then getting big hits. And 'big hits' doesn't mean a big hit over the fence. It means a big base hit in a situation with guys on base. We're finding a way to do that."
Take the fourth inning, when everything unraveled for Mets starter Jonathon Niese. Ben Francisco (hitting .320) singled through the left side on the first pitch. Ibanez (.304) was hit by a pitch. Ruiz singled to left on the second pitch to score Francisco. Wilson Valdez (.429) swung at the first pitch and plunked a double down the right field line to score another. Then, after two strikeouts, Placido Polanco (.440) stroked a 2-1 cutter to right for a two-run single and a 6-0 Phillies lead.
"We're playing the game the right way right now," Valdez said.
Valdez, the 32-year-old journeyman turned starting second baseman, set a career high with four hits, two of them doubles. He scored three runs against one of his former teams.
"I'm pretty happy," he said.
The rest of the clubhouse was, too. Loud music blasted from Jimmy Rollins' locker before the game. In the organized chaos that is postgame on a getaway day, everyone could smile and play with the remote-controlled helicopter.
"I'm very satisfied with how we've been swinging the bats," Manuel said.
The manager, still dressed in his full uniform and red jacket, took a stroll through the clubhouse after the win. He pointed at a few players, nodded, and walked out the back door.
Only 156 games remain.
Contact staff writer Matt Gelb
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