Lieberthal Carries Phillies To Wild Card Lead

The Phillies came into Friday night's game riding high after their series with Florida and the ride went to new heights. Mike Lieberthal's two homeruns carried the Phillies to a 7-3 win and moved the Phillies back into sole possession of first place in the National League Wild Card standings.

Mike Lieberthal never has been to the postseason. He's doing his best to make sure the Philadelphia Phillies get there. Lieberthal homered twice and Randy Wolf battled through six innings as the Phillies took back the National League wild card lead with a 7-3 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

Sparked by Lieberthal, the Phillies (85-69) moved one-half game in front of the Florida Marlins (84-69) in the race for the wild card. The teams meet in Florida for a three-game series next week.

In his 10th season, Lieberthal is the longest-tenured member of the Phillies. He has battled injuries throughout his career and been part of just two teams that have finished over the .500 mark.

Lieberthal is enjoying the race.

"Definitely, just because I've never been part of it before," he said. "Every game, no matter who we play, it's pretty exciting."

Lieberthal wasted little time carrying over the momentum from the Florida series. He staked the Phillies to an early lead with a three-run homer in the top of the first off rookie Josh Hall (0-1) and added a solo shot in the seventh.

Wolf had praise for his batterymate.

"Lieby was definitely the player of the game today," Wolf said. "He's really stepped it up the past week. He's had a great year so far, but his production lately has been amazing. He's just coming through when we need him right now."

Wolf (16-9) was able to make the lead stand. The left-hander labored for much of the night and gave up two runs and four hits. He walked four, struck out eight and departed after throwing 112 pitches. Wolf's victory total is the most by a Phillie since Curt Schilling, a key member of their last playoff team, won 17 games in 1997.

"I kind of made some uphill battles for myself and luckily was able to make some pitches when I needed to," Wolf said.

"I thought he pitched a good game," Phillies manager Larry Bowa said. "He ran some deep counts, but he made some pitches when he had to."

Rookie Marlon Byrd added two hits and two RBI for the Phillies, who moved 16 games over .500 for the first time since June 2001.

After rallying for an emotional 5-4 victory over the Marlins on Thursday, the Phillies jumped on top in the opening inning in this one. Byrd and Bobby Abreu drew walks around a groundout by Placido Polanco. After Jim Thome flied out, Lieberthal deposited an 0-1 pitch over the left field wall for his 12th homer.

Byrd delivered a clutch, two-out RBI single in the second, extending the lead to 4-0.

After cruising through the first two innings, Wolf ran into trouble in the third. Ray Olmedo walked to start the inning, then, Wolf made a wild throw into center field on a sacrifice by Hall. Ryan Freel followed with an RBI double into the left field corner and Hall went to third. Juan Castro grounded out to plate Hall before Wolf walked D'Angelo Jimenez. Wolf averted further trouble as he got both Sean Casey and Wily Mo Pena to foul out.

Wolf also was able to work his way out of trouble in the fifth, when he struck out Jimenez and retired Casey on a comebacker to strand a pair of runners. In the bottom of the inning, the Phillies took advantage of a gift to extend the lead to 5-2. Abreu drew a two-out walk and Thome lofted a routine fly ball to center field, but Freel turned the wrong way and the ball bounced to the wall for a triple, allowing Abreu to score.

Thome has knocked in at least one run in eight straight games, matching the longest run by a Phillie since Rico Brogna accomplished the feat in 1999. Thome has 123 RBI on the season, one shy of matching his career high, set in 2001 with Cleveland.

Hall left after five innings. The 22-year-old righthander gave up five runs and five hits, walking four and striking out three.

Byrd came through again with two outs in the sixth, reaching on infield hit to score Jimmy Rollins and give the Phillies a 6-2 advantage.

Lieberthal completed his first multi-homer game of the season with his blast in the seventh off Brian Reith.

Pena belted a solo homer in the eighth for the Reds, who lost for the sixth time in eight games. Pena's homerun was the only run the Phillies bullpen allowed in three innings of work. On the night, Phillies pitchers struck out 14 Cincinnati Reds.

While all of that was playing out in Philadelphia, Russ Ortiz and the Atlanta Braves made one run stand up for a 1-0 win over the Florida Marlins, dropping them ½ game behind the Phillies in the wild card standings.

The Phillies and Reds meet again Saturday night with Amaury Telemaco (1-3, 3.96) going against Todd Van Poppel (0-1, 5.40).


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