IT STARTED with a bang and ended with a bummer. Let's just say that wasn't his name they were chanting when Raul Ibanez struck out to end yesterday's sweep-avoiding Boston victory at Citizens Bank Park.

In the end, the big October preview series felt more like a matchup from March, at least until Ryan Howard's breathtaking ninth-inning blast off Bobby Jenks forced Boston manager Terry Francona to march out closer Jonathan Papelbon for the final two outs of yesterday's 5-2 loss, giving any remaining fans from the sellout crowd of 45,810 one last chance to lustily boo their least favorite manager.

Those were the Phillie highlights yesterday. Howard's home run, Francona's cameo, and finally, the appearance of one of this boro's most notorious villains, J.D. Drew, who missed the first two games of this series and the first six innings of yesterday's with what was described as a left eye contusion. Drew made it to the plate twice, was cheered when he made an out, booed when he didn't, and cheered when his sliding play for a ball in foul territory glanced off his glove.

Otherwise, what we learned from this series is this: The Red Sox need Drew to be healthy and productive, need Carl Crawford back in the lineup and performing at his May level, need Kevin Youkilis to play every day and perhaps David Ortiz, too.

Not exactly eye-opening revelations.

And the Phillies need their starters to be healthy and go deep into games. Again, stop the presses. Yesterday, Cole Hamels left a scoreless game after Adrian Gonzalez' fourth-inning line drive caught the fleshy part of his right hand between the thumb and wrist, necessitating a threeperson parade of recently called-up relievers. X-rays on Hamels hand were negative, proclamations were made in-game that he would not miss time, but by the end of the day, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. was standing in the middle of the clubhouse - after Hamels chose not to - saying, "It's not 100 percent sure that he'll make his next start."


In the end, the two biggest strategies of this series were both washes. The Phillies rearranged their pitchers so Hamels could pitch the series finale against Red Sox lefty Jon Lester, who two-hit the Phillies for his 10th victory yesterday. Wednesday night, Boston sent Gonzalez into rightfield, so Ortiz could play first and bat, and together the pair made Ibanez look like an offensive machine.

Lee was electric Tuesday night. And the three rookies who bottled up Boston bats Wednesday night at least suggested better depth for your team in that allimportant department. But the Red Sox salvaged the final game of the series without Youkilis or Ortiz in the starting lineup, and with Crawford on the disabled list. They salvaged it when two of their Triple A call-ups ignited a fifth-inning rally against a Phillies Triple A call-up. By the seventh inning, after Jason Varitek lofted one into the rightfield seats for a 3-0 Boston lead and David Herndon was replaced on the mound by Andrew Carpenter, supporters of both sides had settled into the conversational din that reminded of games in March, not October.

"I still have to go out and play, but I know what you're talking about," Howard said after yesterday's game. "From a fan's perspective, you want to see both teams fully healthy. And everybody going out there gunning and throwing it out there."

The only run Boston scored in this series until Hamels' exit yesterday was driven in by John Lackey, their Game 2 pitcher. While the lineup struggled against arms coming at them from either side, their futility against Lee, Antonio Bastardo and Hamels underlined one of Boston's second-half needs: another righthanded bat with power.

This is no news to Sox fans and bad news for Phillies followers, who covet the same thing. Yesterday, the Red Sox released 38-year-old Mike Cameron, one of their hoped-for answers there. The good news is that they still have plenty of outfielders, and their lust for now, at least, has been directed toward Mets shortstop Jose Reyes. Until October, we can live with that, no?

Boston also had to yank Jenks there in the ninth, before he made this series a complete waste - sorry, Terry - for a team that was baseball's hottest just a couple of weeks ago. Disabled some, ineffective, too, Jenks was supposed to share setup duties with Daniel Bard. They are also in the market for bullpen help.

So was it everything you hoped for or expected, this October preview?

"I think what happened is we got to see their rotation and they got to see ours," said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, ignoring the absence in this series of Roy Halladay or the injured Roy Oswalt. "We played three regular-season baseball games. When you see the playoffs, the World Series, I think it's much different. But at the same time, these games count. So you got to win 'em."

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