PHILADELPHIA -- Things are going remarkably well for the Phillies -- so well that Wilson Valdez hit a baseball to the "grown up" part of Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday.
He needed just a little more muscle to hit it out.
Valdez, who started at third base in place of Placido Polanco, crushed a two-run double off the center-field wall in the seventh inning to give the Phillies a two-run lead in a 9-2 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks. It looked like Valdez, who has not homered since July 1, 2010, thought he finally ended his homerless streak when he paused momentarily before running down the first-base line.
"Did he Cadillac it?" Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.
"No, no, no," Valdez said with a smile. "I was thinking he'd catch it. But I got lucky. The ball went to the wall. I was happy."
The Phillies are having plenty of fun these days, and it is easy to see why. The victory put the Phillies in position to win their 14th series in 16 tries since June 17-19 at Seattle and prevented only their second losing streak since May 31-June 3, which explains why they have an 8 1/2-game lead over the Braves in the National League East.
Howard got a kick out of Valdez's blast, saying he hit it to the "grown up" part of the park.
There were other laughs Wednesday.
The Phillies took a 1-0 lead in the first inning, when Jimmy Rollins hit a first-pitch fastball to center field for a leadoff home run. It was Rollins' 37th leadoff homer of his career, and his second leadoff homer this season.
Cliff Lee allowed a two-run home run to Paul Goldschmidt in the second to make it 2-1, but he pitched well the rest of the way. In seven innings, Lee allowed three hits, two runs and two walks and struck out seven to improve to 13-7.
"He can throw any pitch any count any location whenever he wants to, it's tough to try to pick up any patterns on him and he mixes up his pitches," Goldschmidt said.
But then one of the more unusual plays the Phillies will see this season occurred when Hunter Pence doubled in the bottom of the second and John Mayberry Jr. followed with a single up the middle. Pence started to run for what should have been an easy game-tying run, except he inexplicably slid into third despite third-base coach Juan Samuel waving him home.
Pence quickly shot up, realized he still had a chance to score and did to make it 2-2.
"I don't know what that was," Manuel said. "I'm still trying to figure that one out. But at least he didn't [slide] head first."
"I didn't really see Sammy," he said sheepishly. "When I first read the ball I thought it was kind of close to me, so I was trying to get over. I thought maybe in case the shortstop was trying to throw it to third. Little did I know, the shortstop didn't catch it. Once I started sliding, then I saw Sammy waving. Then I went home."
Teammates were cracking up upon Pence's return to the dugout.
"What the heck was that?" Samuel said, laughing. "He thought the shortstop came up with the ball. But he's supposed to be looking at me anyway."
The score remained tied until the Phillies scored three runs in the seventh to take a 5-2 lead.
The inning started with a walk to Pence and a single for Mayberry to put runners at the corners with nobody out. Valdez then crushed his double off the center-field wall, and two batters later, Ben Francisco, who was pinch-hitting for Lee, hit a sacrifice fly to center to score Valdez.
The Phillies scored four more runs in the eighth to make it a rout.
Valdez was asked one more time: You really didn't think you hit it out?
"No," he said. "I'm telling you the truth."
Pence was asked one more time: What the heck happened?
"I was trying to get dirty," he said. "No big deal."
Both answers worked after a victory like that.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.