PHILADELPHIA -- Charlie Manuel did not mince words when asked why he summoned Jonathan Papelbon from the bullpen with the bases loaded and one out in the eighth inning Friday night at Citizens Bank Park.
"I wanted to win the game," he said.
Papelbon had not converted a five-out save since Sept. 1, 2009, and previously had converted only four saves in eight opportunities when recording five or more outs. Manuel had been reluctant to use Papelbon in similar circumstances earlier in the season. He simply is not a fan of using his closer for more than an inning. He said after Friday's 6-4 victory over the Marlins that he had never done it before, which is not exactly true. He just had not done it in a long time.
But after losing reliever Jose Contreras to a serious elbow injury in the seventh inning and with his bullpen in trouble again in the eighth, Manuel went for it.
"I wanted to do that because I wanted to win the game," Manuel repeated. "I felt like we'll see what happens tomorrow, tomorrow."
Papelbon got out of the eighth-inning jam -- striking out Hanley Ramirez looking on an inside pitch that had Ramirez throwing a fit because it ended the inning -- to enter the ninth holding a two-run lead. He retired the first two batters he faced when Justin Ruggiano singled. Greg Dobbs followed with a drive to deep center field. John Mayberry Jr. went back and got twisted like a pretzel before throwing up his glove at the last second to make a circus catch to end the game.
Papelbon, who is 15-for-15 in save opportunities this season, put his hands on his head in disbelief.
"He made an easy catch look hard," he said.
"Perfect route. Perfect angle. Perfect everything," Mayberry joked.
Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen could not believe it. Asked if he thought Mayberry was going to make the catch, he said, "In the beginning, no. In the middle, yes. At the end, what a lucky guy. Philadelphia's night tonight. Balls bounced their way today. That kid made a heck of a play."
The Phillies began a stretch of 20 consecutive games against teams with winning records on May 21, and started the run poorly with a couple losses to the Nationals. But since then the Phillies have won seven of nine games -- scoring 53 runs in that stretch -- to improve to a season-best three games over .500 and move within 2 1/2 games of first place in the National League East.
Carlos Ruiz led the way offensively. He returned to the lineup after not starting since Sunday because of a strained right hamstring. He went 3-for-4 and left the ballpark leading Major League Baseball in hitting with a .381 average.
Placido Polanco and Hunter Pence each had three hits. Pence hit a two-run home run to left field in the fifth inning to give the Phillies a 4-1 lead. Hector Luna went 2-for-4 with three RBIs.
The Phillies will need to continue to score runs with Roy Halladay on the disabled list six to eight weeks and Contreras likely headed to the DL on Saturday. He strained his right elbow throwing a pitch in the seventh inning.
Contreras dropped to the turf before finally walking off the field.
"That's not a good sign," Manuel said. "I think he got hurt pretty bad."
Contreras had a 1.86 ERA in his last 11 appearances, stabilizing a bullpen that had loads of problems the first six weeks of the season. Left-hander Antonio Bastardo finished the seventh, and started the eighth when he gave up back-to-back homers to make it a two-run game.
Bastardo and Jake Diekman eventually loaded the bases when Papelbon entered.
"We need some bullpen pieces," Manuel said. "We need some. We needed some when the game started tonight. And now we need more."
Fortunately, he still had Papelbon.
Unfortunately, the Phillies can't use him like this every night. The days of Goose Gossage, Bruce Sutter and Rollie Fingers are ancient history.
The game has changed.
"Those days are over," Manuel said.
So Manuel will have to pick his spots carefully, knowing he needs to keep his closer as sharp as possible through the season.
Papelbon insisted he is ready for anything.
"It's just another night, man," he said. "You've just got to stay focused for an extra inning. I like every chance and every opportunity I can to get into a ball game. For me, anytime Charlie calls on me to get into a game, I'm ready and willing and able."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.