PHILADELPHIA — The Phillies’ hitters seemed destined for another quick and quiet inning Friday night.
Jimmy Rollins led off the bottom of the first inning and flied out to center field. Freddy Galvis bounced to third. Dull innings like that had become all too familiar over the past four games — all Philadelphia defeats.
But then Chase Utley drew a walk.
It was an at-bat the Phillies had waited five days to see. No Philadelphia player had drawn a walk since Sunday.
Utley’s walk started a five-run first inning that propelled the Phillies to a much-needed 8-2, rain-shortened win over the St. Louis Cardinals before 34,092 fans at Citizens Bank Park. Umpires called the game after the top of the seventh inning because of a torrential downpour. Philadelphia (7-10) trails the first-place Atlanta Braves by 61/2 games in the National League East.
Fans reacted with a louder than normal cheer when Utley walked on a 3-2 pitch.
“We finally got a walk,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said with a laugh.
Before Friday, the Phillies hadn’t walked since the Miami Marlins gave Domonic Brown an intentional pass during the eighth inning of Sunday’s game. The Phillies’ last unintentional walk came in the sixth inning of Sunday’s game, when John Mayberry Jr. drew one.
Much had been made of the Phillies’ impatience at the plate during the losing streak. Their eagerness at the plate confounded many Philadelphia fans. The trend in baseball is to take as many pitches as possible. The theory that a “walk really is as good as a hit” was espoused in the book and movie “Moneyball.”
Utley’s walk seemed to set a tone. Michael Young followed with a single on the 10th pitch of his at-bat. Philadelphia belted three more hits to produce five runs in the inning.
Mayberry and Humberto Quintero hit RBI doubles. Ben Revere slugged an RBI triple for his first extra-base hit of the season.
The Phillies’ offensive output was especially surprising, considering St. Louis starting pitcher Jaime Garcia had allowed just nine runs in 36 career innings against them before Friday.
“I think we were pushing ourselves too hard (earlier this season),” Revere said. “We came back relaxed. Everybody got really good quality at-bats. We laid off the junk. He (Garcia) threw it right there and we drilled it.”
The Phillies drew another walk in third. This time it was Kevin Frandsen, who started the game at first base because Ryan Howard was out with a sore groin. Frandsen also ended up scoring after his walk.
“Chase (had) the walk and then (Young) had a great at-bat,” Frandsen said of the first-inning outbreak. “You see someone battle that long and get a hit, I feel like that changes a lot of guys’ approaches.
In addition to the walks, the performance of Phillies starting pitcher Roy Halladay should also put fans at ease.
Halladay allowed two runs and two hits, both solo home runs, in seven innings. He struggled in spring training and in his first two starts, but Halladay is 2-0 with three runs and eight hits allowed in 15 innings in his last two outings.
“(Friday) was about as close as I’ve felt to where I wanted to be,” he said.
The Phillies’ early lead gave the ballpark the kind of festive feel that it so often had from 2007-2011.
“When we put together some runs, that will bring life to your team,” Manuel said.
Friday’s game was how the Phillies envisioned their season unfolding when they projected themselves as playoff contenders in spring training.
The offense produced runs with timely hits. The starting pitching was superb. Even the defense stood out, with left fielder Galvis and center fielder Revere making diving catches.
For one night, Philadelphia’s best-case scenario came true.
Contact Michael McGarry: