Placido Polanco, hitting .196 four days ago, hitting .250 now, was asked Monday night if hes made any adjustments at the plate.
Yeah, I changed shoes, he said. Im wearing 10 12 now.
Pause. Then laughter.
Polanco was joking, but the adjustments hes made are almost as subtle as changing shoe size.
Yeah, Im putting my weight on my back leg a little bit more, choke up a little bit more, he said. Little adjustments. Little adjustments that make a big difference.
The rejuvenated Polanco belted a two-run, two-out double into the deep left-field corner off reliever Rafael Dolis in the bottom of the eighth to give the Phillies a 6-4 win over the Cubs and a split of their four-game series Monday night at Citizens Bank Park (see Instant Replay).
Polanco, 9 for 51 as of last Tuesday, is 7 for 16 in his last four games.
His double was his first multiple-RBI hit in 10 months, since a grand slam against Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano gave the Phillies a 7-5 win here last June.
Is his almost year-long slump over?
You hope so, Polanco said. You work. You keep working. You kind of relax a little more when youve been around a little bit, but at the same time you also want to come and make adjustments on what youre doing wrong. The last four or five games Ive been feeling really good.
Polanco really hasnt hit since last April. He was sitting at .398 a year ago today, the last day of April, then hit .243 the rest of the year. Add in his slow start this year, and Polanco was at .236 over virtually a full season.
Maybe things are changing. The two-run double was the hardest-hit ball Polanco has hit all year.
He drove that ball real good, Charlie Manuel said. The pitch was down and in, and he got to it. That was real good to see. Hes been doing a lot of work on his hitting, and the last four or five games, his swing has gotten better.
The Phillies hammered out five hits and four runs off Cubs starter Chris Volstad, and Phillies starter Vance Worley pitched well again, leaving after seven innings with a 4-1 lead.
But after Antonio Bastardo and Chad Qualls worked an ugly eighth, the game was tied at 4-4, and the Phillies hadnt scored since the first.
With one out in the bottom of the eighth, pinch-hitter Juan Pierre was hit by a pitch, and after Freddy Galvis popped up, Jimmy Rollins singled to right. That set the stage for Polanco, who entered the game with just two RBIs in 19 games.
I know that guy throws really hard and has a lot of movement, so I was looking for that fastball and make it be up a little bit, Polanco said. It was a good pitch, but I was able to turn on it.
Its been a while since Polancos last late-inning clutch two-out hit.
Its a good feeling, Polanco said. Especially when its game-winning RBIs in a tight ball game in the eighth. Its a good feeling.
Polanco said he never got too concerned about his slow start. Hes a .300 career hitter now in his 15th major-league season. He wasnt going to panic.
Its a long season, and I know we still have five months left, he said. Last year, I had a great first month and after that I didnt do anything, so I guess itll all work out if I keep working.
Last year, a great April and nothing after that.
This year? A poor April and then a hot streak?
Thats what Im trying to do, he said. Im seeing the ball good. I can control what I can control, and thats show up early, work hard and try to take tough at-bats in there, and whatever happens happens, and Im doing what I can do.
Polanco also made three defensive gems at third. He made a diving stab of a shot down the line by Volstad in the third, he made a sweet play on a pretty good drag bunt by Tony Campana in the fourth, and with the bases loaded and nobody out, he bailed out Worley by fielding a hard-hit ball by Geovany Soto and turning it into a 5-3 double play.
I always say that you play good defense, you can win a lot of games, said Polanco, a three-time Gold Glove winner. Because you might be a great-hitting team, but youre not going to hit every day, and we have good pitching.
And the big defensive plays mean as much to him as the big hits.
Without a doubt, he said. Were here for one purpose, which is to win games, and all that helps.
The Cubs three-run eighth, including Bryan LaHairs two-run homer off Qualls, cost Worley his third win, but Worley was very good again, allowing one run and five hits in seven innings.
In his last three starts, Worley has pitched 20 innings, giving up 14 hits, two earned runs, walking six and striking out 21 with a 0.90 ERA. Hes allowed just seven earned runs in 32 innings this year and has his ERA down to 1.97.
The Phils are 4-2 in their last six and now just one game under .500 at 11-12 going into a six-game road trip against the Braves and Nationals.
Its just the first month, Worley said. Nothing to really worry about. We just got to go out and play and not do too much thinking out there and see how things roll.
The Phillies open a three-game series with the Braves on Tuesday in Atlanta and start a three-game series with the Nationals on Friday in Washington.
I think were starting to swing the bats better, Manuel said. Ive seen us have rough Aprils before, but were close. Were a game under .500. Were starting a new month and I hope we can play better.
E-mail Reuben Frank at email@example.com