Sam Donnellon: Nice to see Rollins join the Phillies’ party

AT SOME POINT he had to join the party. It was implausible, the

thought that the

Phillies could win the last game of

the 2010 season without the help of Jimmy Rollins.

And yet he looked so awful on the right side of the plate, so

feeble on the left side of the plate this postseason, that Giants

manager Bruce Bochy’s solution to escape a seventh-inning jam last

night was to somehow get to Rollins’ place in the order.

Rollins had mustered just two hits in the playoffs, one a little

gift that dropped between three Giants infielders to begin the

fourth inning last night. In the press box, probably in the stands,

in the living rooms and bars across the Delaware Valley, too, there

was an uneasy argument even that pinch-hitting for the

Phillies’ franchise shortstop was

the sharpest course of action. Especially when Bochy intentionally

walked hitless Jayson Werth to load the bases, then replaced

lefthander Jeremy Affeldt with righthanded Santiago Casilla,

forcing Rollins to bat lefthanded.

“I never considered it at all, really,” manager Charlie Manuel

said after Rollins’ three-run double in the seventh broke open the

Phillies’ 6-1 victory over San

Francisco in Game 2 of the NLCS. “When you show me you can do

something, when I see it and trust in you . . . This is a game

where you can really go bad . . .

“I’ve got a lot of faith in him and I stand there and pull for

him. I know how good he can hit and I also know how much he wants

to be up there.”

It’s why none of us are managers. It’s why players love to play

for Charlie Manuel. Whether through his periodic struggles at

leadoff, or his recent struggles to bat as well or run as well as

we are accustomed to seeing, Rollins never quite lost his manager

the way he lost some of us.

“I’ll stay right with you, son,” Manuel said. “I’ll go down with

you.”

And he did, throughout some key at-bats against Cincinnati, and

again the other night. Play Wilson Valdez, some said. Bat Jimmy

leadoff where he will feel more comfortable, went the touchy-feely

theorem.

Which is why Rollins’ bases-clearing double off the

right-centerfield wall wasn’t just about sealing a critical

victory. It was about hope, promise, and ultimately – for anxious

fans unaccustomed to seeing their team behind in a postseason

series – relief.

“I was glad I was the person up there at the moment and able to

come through,” Rollins said. “But you don’t celebrate until you win

four games. And once we get to that point, you can look back and

say that was a big hit. But for now, it just gave us a little

breathing room . . . “

The

Phillies head to San Francisco for

the next three games of this series with a little more air in their

lungs, a little better karma now. They chased a pretty good pitcher

in Jonathan Sanchez. It took a lot of pitches and a lot of grueling

at-bats and yes, missed opportunities, but they scored six runs and

chipped away at a Giants bullpen that was supposed to be San

Francisco’s edge. It was a very un-Phillielike rally, fueled by the

leadoff hitter sacrificing the pitcher to second and Bochy then

playing his dangerous game of matchup by having his pitchers issue

two intentional walks, the second to get to Rollins.

Rollins’ double was the

Phillies’ fifth extra-base hit of

this series. While this already eclipses their three-game total

against Cincinnati, it masks this: The

Phillies have recorded consecutive

hits just once in the postseason, back in the second inning of Game

1 of the NLDS.

Rollins came to the plate with one hit in his back pocket, a

bloop in front of the pitcher’s mound that the Giants misplayed

into a hit to start the inning. Rollins didn’t score, but twice he

attempted steals on balls fouled off. He ran all-out and fast both

times and for the first time in more than a month, he looked

something like his old self.

Or his best self.

“If you cover me every day, you know where I’m coming from,” he

said. “You figure out things. You solve problems. Sometimes there’s

going to be confusion. But once you lose confidence, you’re not

going to be able to play at this level.

“God gave me this talent. And I’m going to do something with it.

That’s just the way it is.”

There’s a lot of baseball left to be played, a lot of questions

still to be answered about the

Phillies’ ability to support their

three aces against a Giants staff of the same. But if Rollins has

figured out things, solved problems, rejoined the party?

Well, that answers a whole bunch of questions.

Send e-mail to

donnels@phillynews.com.

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http://go.philly.com/donnellon.