PHILADELPHIA -- The focus was on Jimmy Rollins, and why not? He had been mired in a deep slump, and he had been moved back to the leadoff spot for the first time this season.
And, sure enough, when the fourth inning rolled around, the Phillies' shortstop stepped to the plate with two outs and the bases loaded and the chance to give starter Joe Blanton a little breathing room. Rollins delivered a double that painted the right-field foul line, ending an 0-for-13 streak and sending the Phillies to a 5-2 win against the Cubs on Saturday night at Citizens Bank Park.
Those dramatics overshadowed the fact that it was catcher Carlos Ruiz who had put the team ahead with a two-run single three batters earlier. That it was Ruiz who added an insurance homer in the sixth, moments after collapsing in pain after taking a foul tip off his knee in the top half of the inning. And that it was Ruiz who shepherded Blanton through a solid start.
The right-hander scattered eight hits and was charged with just two runs in 7 1/3 innings.
"He had his offspeed stuff," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "He was using it for strikes, he was locating it and getting ahead, and just going from there, really. With that offspeed stuff, he's always capable of doing that, and when he's locating and getting ahead, you know, working his fastball in, he is really tough."
Blanton said his curve and slider were working well.
"But what made those decent was that I was able to locate my fastball a little better than I was able to in the last couple games," he said.
The Phillies didn't have a hit off Cubs starter Randy Wells going into the fourth, but Hunter Pence got things started with a double and Jim Thome walked. After Shane Victorino grounded into a force play at second, Laynce Nix walked to load the bases. Wells missed with two sliders, and then came in with a fastball that Ruiz whacked into left to drive in a pair of runs. The Phillies had scored just once in their previous 12 innings before Ruiz's hit.
"It was a big inning for us. I was looking for a good pitch to hit, and everything started out there," Ruiz said.
Blanton said that was only part of Ruiz's contribution.
"Most of my pitches felt good right out of the gate, and that's all Chooch right there, calling the game. He did a fantastic job," Blanton said.
The pitcher helped himself by working a walk to load the bases for Rollins.
The Phillies came into the game with just 37 walks, tied with the Pirates for fewest in the Major Leagues, but three walks that inning were pivotal. Manager Charlie Manuel said he's seen his hitters demonstrate patience and work counts at times, but admitted they don't do it consistently enough.
Manuel made multiple lineup changes on Saturday, outside of putting Rollins in the leadoff spot. Thome started at first base for just the second time since April 13, but exited the game after the fourth inning with tightness in his lower back. Pence slid into the three-hole in place of Rollins, and Nix started in left field.
Manuel wasn't sure before the game if moving Rollins out of the third spot would help. Then again, with both the shortstop and the entire lineup struggling, he figured it couldn't hurt.
Rollins, primarily a leadoff hitter throughout his career, batted .216 from the third spot this season. "It may be some kind of mindset thing. I have no idea about that," Manuel said before the game.
And does Rollins think being back at the top of the order helped? Who knows. He left the clubhouse without sharing his thoughts.
Manuel said he expected Juan Pierre to be back in the lineup Sunday against the Cubs, but didn't rule out the possibility he could bat second, with Rollins remaining the leadoff hitter.
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.