Rollins has blast in leadoff spot

Posted: May 22, 2014

MIAMI - Most of the conversation with Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg with the press corps before last night's game - and before the news of Cliff Lee's elbow woes - was centered on Ben Revere's absence from the starting lineup for a fourth straight game.

Last night, it was Tony Gwynn Jr. who supplanted Revere in centerfield. Sandberg was asked whether Revere still had a grip on his everyday centerfield job, but the manager sidestepped the issue for the most part, leading to what will likely be a daily revival of Abbott and Costello's "Who's On First," except with centerfield as the position in question.

When the game played out, it wasn't so much the new centerfielder who set the tone for the game against the Miami Marlins, but the new-old leadoff hitter.

Jimmy Rollins hit a go-ahead home run in the fifth inning and reached base in three of his five plate appearances, scoring two runs and stealing a base, too, as the Phillies beat the Marlins, 6-5.

"He's just doing a good job," Sandberg said. "He's in a nice groove with what he's doing at the plate, as far as swinging the bat, being patient, the whole works. He's doing well in that leadoff spot right now."

After losing four in a row and eight out of their last 10 entering the weekend, the Phillies have won three straight games. Last night's win came on an otherwise somber day around the team.

When the Phillies arrived to the ballpark, Sandberg passed along word to the team that club president David Montgomery had surgery for cancer in his jaw on Monday. Montgomery will remain hospitalized for a week but is expected to make a full recovery.

Just before first pitch, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. informed the media that Cliff Lee had an MRI on his left elbow. Afterward, Lee was placed on the 15-day DL with a grade 1/2 flexor strain.

With his team in need of a morale boost, Rollins led off the game with a single, stole second and scored the first run when Ryan Howard doubled to right. Rollins (2-for-4) would finish the game 20 hits shy of breaking Mike Schmidt's franchise record for hits (2,234).

Rollins (2,215 hits) is two away from tying Richie Ashburn for second on the Phillies' all-time hit list.

Before moving back into his customary leadoff spot on Friday, Rollins had hit second, usually behind Revere, in 32 of his 33 starts this season.

The Phillies led 2-0 after their first at-bat, but quickly gave both runs back when Miami responded by sending eight batters to the plate in their half of the first inning. A.J. Burnett, battling inconsistent home-plate umpire Will Little, needed 35 pitches to get through the laborious first.

Burnett and the Phillies trailed by 3-2 after three, as Garrett Jones' one-out double in the third put Miami in front. With Burnett's pitch count climbing, the Phillies looked to be in big trouble in Little Havana.

The Marlins entered the night having scored more runs at home than every team in baseball but Colorado. They had won 17 of the 23 games they had played in Miami this season.

But Rollins and the Phillies' bullpen brought their talents to South Beach this week, too.

After Burnett split the rightfielder and centerfielder with a sky-high double to the gap with one out in the fifth, Rollins smoked a two-run, go-ahead home run over the rightfield fence. The home run was Rollins' sixth of the season and second in as many games.

Seven weeks into 2014, Rollins has already equaled his home-run output from all of 2013. A year ago, Rollins hit a career-low six home runs in 666 plate appearances in 160 games; this season, he's hit six in 173 plate appearances over 40 games.

Rollins' latest home run gave the Phillies the lead in the fifth. They added two insurance runs in the sixth, when Sandberg pulled Burnett (96 pitches) in favor of pinch-hitter John Mayberry Jr. with the bases loaded and two outs, and Mayberry ripped a two-run single through the left side of the infield.

"[Mayberry] has been swinging a pretty good bat the last three to four games for him," Sandberg said. "He came up big, and as it turned out, a big hit in the pinch. It worked out well."

The Phillies' much-maligned relief corps did the rest.

Jake Diekman struck out three and didn't allow a hit in two scoreless innings upon taking over for Burnett. After Mike Adams collected back-to-back strikeouts to escape a tricky eighth, Jonathan Papelbon recorded his first save in 10 days in the ninth.

Papelbon's 12th save of the season was far from perfect. He walked two in the inning and recorded the game's last out with the tying run 90 feet from home plate. Papelbon escaped when Gwynn made his second strong catch in centerfield to end the game.

"Throughout the game, the bases on balls hurt us," Sandberg said. "A.J. and I think each guy out of the 'pen walked a guy. Four of them ended up scoring, I think. That had a chance to bite us in the end, but we were able to hang in there right to the last out."


On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21

Blog: ph.ly/HighCheese

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