ATLANTA -- Maybe this is the beginning of something.
John Mayberry Jr. had a less-than-favorable task with one out in the top of the eighth inning Tuesday at Turner Field. He had to face Braves left-hander Jonny Venters, who had struck out 17 of 39 batters this season. Hitting Venters is difficult in the best conditions, but Mayberry had been struggling since the beginning of the season, hitting .178 (8-for-45) with 15 strikeouts since he had two hits on Opening Day.
So, naturally, Mayberry finessed a 1-0 fastball and dropped it down the right-field line for a double to key a two-run rally in a 4-2 victory.
"A blooper can definitely get you going," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "It can definitely get you going. When you're playing and the first time up, if you get a bloop hit or a lucky hit, that can definitely turn you around. Really, it's one of the best feelings in baseball, I think."
The Phillies, who were stumbling through a West Coast road trip just last week, have won five of their last seven games to improve to 12-12 and are just 2 1/2 games behind the first-place Washington Nationals in the National League East.
The Phillies have won eight consecutive games against the Braves.
They talked a lot about energy, fun and excitement after the game. Those are things that had been lacking (or nonexistent) most of the first month of the season. Manuel gushed Tuesday over Jimmy Rollins, who went 2-for-4 with a run. Rollins is hitting .400 (6-for-15) with one double, two RBIs, two walks and three runs scored since he returned to the leadoff spot Saturday.
"What I liked about last night and tonight's game is the fact that we got what I call leadership play from Rollins," Manuel said. "He had a good mindset tonight. He was having fun in the game. He put a lot into helping us win the game. At the plate, how he went about it in the field, in the dugout, he was having fun."
Ty Wigginton praised Mayberry for hustling to second for his eighth-inning double -- which led to him scoring the go-ahead run on a wild pitch -- and Hunter Pence for hustling to second on a ball that rolled into the outfield in the fourth inning to set up a two-run rally and give the Phillies an early lead.
"That brings energy. That brings some excitement," said Wigginton, whose single to left in the fourth scored two runs. "That pays dividends for an offense."
The Phillies are hitting .266 and averaging 4.6 runs per game over the past seven. Combine that with their normally reliable pitching and it easy to see why they are 5-2.
Braves right-hander Brandon Beachy retired the first 10 batters he faced until Placido Polanco singled to right field with one out in the fourth. Polanco is hitting .400 (8-for-20) with two doubles, three RBIs, two walks and three runs scored in his last five games, a good sign for the Phillies, who are desperately searching for consistency on offense.
Pence then rolled that ball to right field for a double.
"The last game of the season, he threw one of those grenades out there and beat us," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He's one of those guys who sticks his nose in there with two strikes and battles and finds a way to hit balls where you can't even defend."
Wigginton followed and ripped a single to left field to score Polanco and Pence. There was no play on Pence as Braves left fielder Martin Prado overran the ball.
Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels allowed a home run to Brian McCann in the bottom of the fourth inning to make it 2-1. He allowed another run in the sixth to make it 2-2.
Hamels allowed two runs on six hits, with two walks and six strikeouts in six innings. He had to throw 108 pitches to get through those six innings, cutting his night short.
"The plan I had going into the game, and the way I thought their approach would be, definitely wasn't," he said. "It was the complete opposite."
The Braves were impressed anyway.
"I never tip my hat to many pitchers, but Cole Hamels is one I will constantly tip my hat to," Braves right fielder Matt Diaz said. "He beared right down after the McCann homer. He's fun to play against because it's always going to be a battle, but it's frustrating as heck because he wins a lot of those battles."
After Mayberry doubled, he advanced to third on Rollins' single to left field and scored on a wild pitch to give the Phillies a 3-2 lead. Shane Victorino then ripped a ball off Venters to put runners at the corners. Rollins scored on Pence's single to right to give the Phillies a two-run lead.
That makes it two nights in a row the Phillies offense came up with clutch hits late in the game.
Maybe it is the beginning of something. Maybe. But the Phillies also know they are not there yet. If one month of play is not enough to draw any firm conclusions about the Phillies offense, then seven games is not, either.
"We still have a lot to do," Hamels said. "Hitting-wise, we were able to get a lot of big hits. But we have to do it early on and keep putting the pressure on. We just can't get a few runs, then score when things get tight again. We still need to run through what we're capable of doing. From a pitching standpoint, we just have to minimize the damage. I know we have great pitchers, but we can't take anything for granted. We have to keep plugging away. I still think we have a lot of work to do."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.