The Phillies suspended disbelief long enough to thwart Cy Young candidate R.A. Dickey's quest for a 19th win, with Cliff Lee striking out 10 in eight innings and Jimmy Rollins hitting his 21st home run. Rollins, who is tied with Baltimore's J.J. Hardy for the third-most home runs among major league shortstops, scored the Phillies' first two runs, reaching base on a strikeout/wild pitch and eventually scoring on a Chase Utley sacrifice fly in the first inning.
The Phillies, who are 74-74, entered the day trailing St. Louis by four games for the second wild-card spot in the National League (the Cardinals were off). Also in front of the Phillies and chasing St. Louis are the Dodgers, Brewers and Pirates.
By starting Ruiz, who is battling plantar fasciitis, and Frandsen, who has a stress fracture in his foot, Manuel made it clear that he is not ready to turn his attention toward 2013. That means he is unlikely to start Utley at third base anytime soon. And minor league home-run king Darin Ruf has yet to start a game since being called up from Double A Reading earlier this month.
Utley fielded ground balls at third base prior to the game, working one-on-one with fielding coach Sam Perlozzo.
"If we fall out of this race, there might be an opportunity for him to play third, but I wouldn't want to burden him with that at this stage of the game," GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "The only way that we would do that is one, if he feels comfortable enough doing it, because he doesn't deserve to be put in a position that he doesn't feel comfortable in."
The Phillies will not be able to render a definitive judgment on Utley's capabilities as a regular third baseman until after spring training, when he would be able to play the position on a consistent basis. With the free-agent and trade market slim on options at second or third, Utley would not necessarily impact the Phillies' offseason decision-making. Instead, Amaro said, it would give them the option of playing slick-fielding rookie Freddy Galvis at second base, where his defensive prowess impressed the club before he landed on the disabled list with a fractured bone in his back (which preceded a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs).
"If he dedicates himself to do it, I think the probability of him being able to do it is much higher with him than with other people," Amaro said.
And if Utley does move to third? "I would assume that Freddy will be our second baseman," Amaro said.
One of the big wild cards for 2013 will be outfielder Domonic Brown, who, less than 2 years ago, was one of the top prospects in the sport. After watching Brown hit a home run and a triple off R.A. Dickey on Monday night, Charlie Manuel said he has been encouraged by what he has seen from Brown since he joined the club in late July.
"I think he's going to hit," Manuel said after the win. "I've said that all along. I think when you see him hit balls like that tonight and a couple that he hit over there in Houston, he's got to really study and learn what he's doing. Once he learns that, he'll know what kind of swing that he wants to put on the ball and he'll know where he wants his hands and the angle of his bat to be."
Brown is hitting .246 with a .340 on-base percentage, .408 slugging percentage, four homers and 25 strikeouts in 142 at-bats.
Cliff Lee improved to 6-7 with a 3.27 ERA, holding the Mets to one run on seven hits with 10 strikeouts and one walk in eight innings . . . Jonathan Papelbon retired all three hitters he faced in the ninth for his 35th save . . . Chase Utley went 2-for-3 with an RBI, while Ryan Howard saw his average drop to .225 with an 0-for-4 night.