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Ruiz, Conine drive in three apiece as Phillies survive

Sep 23, 2006 - 8:42 PM PHILADELPHIA (Ticker) -- Carlos Ruiz and Jeff Conine kept the Philadelphia Phillies rolling despite Tom Gordon's near meltdown.

Ruiz and Conine each had three RBI before Gordon made things interesting in the ninth inning, but the Phillies held on for their fourth straight win, an 8-6 victory over the Florida Marlins.

With the triumph and a loss by Los Angeles against Arizona, Philadelphia (81-73) moved into a one-half game lead in the National League wild card race over the Dodgers.

"(The players) have a mind set that they have to win every game that we play from here on out," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.

Winners of six of their previous seven, the Phillies got to Brian Moehler early in this one as Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino and Chase Utley began the bottom of the first inning with singles for a 1-0 lead. The trio combined to go 10-for-15 with two RBI and eight runs scored.

"It all starts with me and continues on down," Rollins said. "Today, I was able to jump-start us, and Shane and Chase carried us the rest of the way."

"It's nice to go out and get three hits in a row," Victorino added. "It seems that when we get on base, things happen."

Ryan Howard, the major league home run leader with 58, then was hit by a pitch to load the bases, prompting plate umpire Bob Davidson to warn both benches.

"They keep putting me on, they're putting potential runs on base," said Howard, who also was walked intentionally in the eighth. "Right now, we've been fortunate enough having guys coming up and getting those runs in."

Moehler retired the next two batters before Ruiz hit a check-swing single to right field, driving in two.

"I tried not to do too much with men on base," Ruiz said. "Now that pitchers don't want to pitch to Howard, we've got to come through."

"A check-swing, he couldn't have placed it any better," Moehler said. "That's the way it goes."

Third on Philadelphia's depth chart at catcher, Ruiz made it 4-0 in the third with an RBI double.

"This time of the year, you need contributions from everyone," Conine said. "Today, Carlos came through big for us."

Alfredo Amezaga halved the deficit with a run-scoring groundout in the fourth and an RBI single in the sixth, but the Phillies answered with a pair in the bottom of that inning.

Jimmy Rollins led off the frame with his 23rd homer off Yusmeiro Petit and Victorino and Utley followed with singles. Renyel Pinto struck out Howard before being relieved by Randy Messenger, who yielded an RBI base hit to pinch hitter Conine.

"I think (the leadoff hitters) are essential for any offense, especially ours," Conine said. "It creates some interesting situations."

"It's hard to beat this club if you don't keep people off the bases in front of Howard," Florida manager Joe Girardi said.

Joe Borchard belted a two-out, two-run homer in the eighth off Ryan Madson, drawing the Marlins within 6-4. But Conine, a two-time former Marlin, delivered a two-run double that was misplayed by Borchard in right field for an 8-4 advantage.

"(Conine) has gotten big hits for us," Manuel said. "One thing about him is he puts the ball in play. Today, that's exactly what he did."

In a non-save situation, Gordon was less than stellar. Miguel Olivo led off the ninth with his 16th homer and, one out later, Hanley Ramirez launched a shot to left to reduce the Phillies' lead to 8-6.

It was only the second time in his career Gordon has allowed two homers in a relief appearance dating to May 26, 1992.

However, Gordon - who has a history of not coming through in playoff-type games - got the job done. Dan Uggla worked the count to 3-2 before striking out on a check swing and Miguel Cabrera flied out to right on the first pitch.

"I'm not worried about Flash," Manuel said of his closer. "With a four-run lead in this ballpark, to me, that's not a whole lot. I wanted to make sure we won the game."

Backed by a 16-hit attack, Jon Lieber (9-10) posted his fifth win in six decisions. The righthander yielded two runs and seven hits in seven innings, striking out six without a walk.

"It seemed like the pitches were a little more sharper," Lieber said. "I kept the ball down, for the most part."

Moehler (7-10) lasted just 3 1/3 frames, surrendering four runs, eight hits and a walk.

"We've seen Moehler a number of times, so the way he's going to pitch isn't going to be a surprise," Rollins said.

Victorino and Utley tied career highs with four hits apiece for the Phillies, who improved their NL-best record since July 26 to 37-20.

"The name of the game is getting on base," Utley said. "Try to get on base for the big boys. The more we all get on base, the better opportunity we have to score."

Ramirez went 3-for-5 and Mike Jacobs scored three times for Florida (76-79), which fell 5 1/2 games back in the wild card race with seven games remaining.

"The effort is there," Girardi said. "They never quit, they keep playing. We're asking guys to do things they've never done before."

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