NEW YORK - When Pat Burrell, Aaron Rowand and Chase Utley joined the bench players for early batting practice, they figured they could use the extra work.

After all, they were one-third of the lineup that proved to be the third-worst in baseball with runners in scoring position.

Thanks to Mets starter Oliver Perez, they didn't need the work.

After Utley's two-out single in the third, Perez walked the next four batters then hit No. 8 hitter Rod Barajas, forcing in a third straight run before he left last night's 5-2 Phillies win at Shea Stadium.

The Phillies dropped from .188 to .180 with runners in scoring position, going 1-for-9. Lack of clutch hitting has been the major bugaboo in their 2-6 start. Last night, at least their patience proved virtuous.

"It was a big lift. We needed a win," manager Charlie Manuel said.

Perez (1-1) gave them one last night.

"You've got to remember: He is erratic," said Wes Helms, whose four-pitch walk drove in Utley. Perez now has walked seven batters in a game six times in his career.

"Getting walks with the bases loaded is huge," said Rowand, who followed Helms and ran the count full before he walked. "It says guys aren't trying to do too much."

Shane Victorino's sacrifice fly followed Jimmy Rollins' one-out triple off Aaron Sele (who pitched well through the seventh) in the sixth to make it 4-2. Rowand provided the only hit with runners in scoring position, a two-out double in the seventh to give starter Adam Eaton a three-run cushion.

Eaton (1-1) pitched the seventh and exited. He was followed by rare bullpen excellence: six straight outs, from Antonio Alfonseca in the eighth and Tom Gordon in the ninth, who recorded his first save.

The good start was not so rare. The Phillies' offense and bullpen have wasted three fine starts this season. Eaton was not dominant, but he was better than in his first start. He adjusted his windup starting point more toward third base. He was good enough - seven innings, two runs, four hits, three walks, five strikeouts - and he was supported.

Eaton stranded leadoff hitter Jose Reyes in the first by striking out Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado. He escaped a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the fourth by being aggressive.

Moises Alou smashed a shot past him that Utley knocked down, flipped backhanded to Rollins, who touched second and relayed to first for a doubleplay - a turn sure to show up on highlights.

"He hit it pretty hard, and he hit it through the umpire. I didn't really see it," Utley said. Eaton "Didn't try to get out of the inning giving up no runs. It was huge."

"I knew Chase was playing him to pull a little bit, but I didn't think he'd be right there," said Eaton, who was charged up after the play. "My ears were ringing. He did hit the ball pretty hard. I just wanted to give up one run."

That made it 3-1. It moved to 3-2 on Reyes' RBI single in the fifth, but the offense added a bit of cushion, Eaton settled and got stronger, Manuel said.

It was the sort of baseball the Phillies expected themselves to play before a couple of poor starts, some shoddy defense, a leaky 'pen and atrocious situational hitting got them off to yet another bad start.

"We've played two-third of games, three-quarters of good games," Rowand said. "We've made some bad mistakes."

"Not tonight," Utley said. "We had some good at-bats. A big pitch in clutch situations. It turned out OK."

Must've been the extra work. *