MIAMI - Setting up a pitching rotation after the all-star break is no trivial matter for a manager. The first game back can be a tone-setter for the days ahead, and getting a win right out of the chute is important.
So, it was no surprise that Phillies manager Charlie Manuel tabbed Jamie Moyer as his starting pitcher against the Florida Marlins last night.
Need a win against the Marlins?
The 45-year-old lefthander beat the Marlins for the 10th time in as many starts, leading the Phils to a 4-2 victory at Dolphin Stadium.
"We wanted to put him on Florida here," Manuel said about Moyer, who improved to 9-6 with six innings of two-run ball. "To win the first one right after the break is good. We'll see if we can get another one tomorrow."
The win allowed the National League East-leading Phillies to go a game up on the sizzling New York Mets, whose 10-game winning streak ended at Cincinnati. The Phils lead the Marlins by 21/2 games.
"We have to take care of our own business, regardless of who's ahead of or behind us," Moyer said. "We have to continue to win."
The Phillies drew a tough assignment, having to face Florida righthander Ricky Nolasco, a 10-game winner who was 5-0 with a 1.95 ERA in his previous seven starts.
Nolasco had some early difficulties, and the Phils were able to capitalize in jumping to a 4-0 lead.
Ryan Howard hit his majors-leading 29th home run to lead off the second inning, and Geoff Jenkins homered to lead off the fourth. Pat Burrell and Jimmy Rollins had doubles in the second and third, respectively, and scored on singles by Jenkins and Chase Utley.
Moyer, with a little help from the best bullpen in the majors, protected the lead nicely. His toughest challenge came in the fourth, when he allowed the first four hitters to reach base. In a nifty bit of inning-management, he got a double play and a pop-up in holding the Marlins to two runs in the frame.
Manuel saw that inning from the dugout, but not much more. He was ejected by home plate umpire Jim Joyce in the fifth.
In 10 starts, Moyer has a 3.03 ERA against the Marlins. His assortment of off-speed pitches has a way of neutralizing the free-swinging Marlins.
"I don't know how he does it," said Marlins outfielder Cody Ross, whose 17-game hitting streak was snapped. "It's amazing to me."
A reporter tried to ask Moyer to explain his success against the Marlins. Moyer anticipated the question, cut the reporter off, and said, "I don't know."
Whatever the reason, the Phillies will take it.