NEW YORK - Months ago, Jimmy Rollins uttered five words that are going to shadow his every movement in the borough of Queens for the rest of the season.
Rollins' famous, "We're the team to beat" declaration about the Phillies - and in a perceived lack of deference for the Mets - has given so much mileage to writers and fans in their endless quest to add drama and intrigue to the division rivalry that it could qualify as an alternative-fuel source.
What the Phillies needed from Rollins was a turbo boost for their sputtering postseason hopes. And the brassy shortstop provided that with a single swing of the bat Wednesday night.
Rollins' two-out, three-run home run - his first long ball since taking the National League lead in the category April 27 - in the top of the seventh off Aaron Heilman led the Phils to a stunning, 4-2 win at Shea Stadium.
Rollins' 10th homer of the season came after Pat Burrell, pinchhitting with runners on second and third with one out, struck out on a check swing third strike and the Phillies trailing 2-0. It was the type of at-bat that has taken the life out of the Phils many times this season, but not this time.
This time, Rollins - the object of maximum ire from Mets fans - detoured his team from a return visit to the bowels of frustration.
"It would have been bigger if we were tied (in the standings with the Mets) and the win gave us the lead," said Rollins, whose team instead moved within six games of first-place New York. "But this is still a great place to do it, in New York. It feels good."
Asked if he has embraced becoming something of a villain in New York, Rollins doesn't think he belongs in villain territory.
"Nah, I think I smile too much to be a villain," he said. "People get tired of being mad at a happy guy."
Told that New York has had some terrific sports villains over the years - former NBA star Reggie Miller being one of them - Rollins reconsidered.
"Hmm," he said. "I could be a Reggie Miller. I could handle that."
As the ball caromed off the retainer wall behind the right-field fence, Rollins threw a finger into the air as he rounded first. As he walked off the field, he pointed to his parents and brother in the seats behind the visiting dugout.
Rollins' stadium-silencing shot meant that Adam Eaton would have a chance to make it five victories in five career starts against the Mets. But in order for the Phillies to get there, it required a couple of key defensive plays.
The first one came before Rollins' heroics. Shane Victorino cut down yet another base runner at the plate when he snared Ruben Gotay's fairly deep fly ball to right and after briefly fumbling for a grip, unleashed a vicious throw to the plate to throw out Carlos Delgado tagging from third base.
The next came in the bottom of the seventh. After Geoff Geary created his own jam with a fielding error to the start the inning, Julio Franco came to the plate with runners on second and third and no outs. The veteran pinch hitter smoked a grounder down the firstbase line that Ryan Howard dove to stop.
Howard would have been happy to take the out and see the tying run cross the plate - except Botay, for who-knows-what reason - froze and didn't break for home despite Howard being in no position to throw there.
That proved costly for the Mets when, after intentionally walking Jose Reyes to load the bases, Geary got Endy Chavez to ground into a double play to end the inning.
From there the new eight-ninth inning crew - Ryan Madson and Antonio Alfonseca - needed just 17 pitches to get the final six outs.
Suddenly, the Phillies are a Cole Hamels start away from sweeping the Braves and Mets in consecutive road series. Sure, there was a lousy homestand in between, but ...
"I think (a sweep) would help our club, help our confidence," Charlie Manuel said. "It will have our guys thinking, 'See, we can do it.'
"I know why Jimmy said what he said. He felt we had gotten better (during the offseason). Now he's out there trying to back it up. That's the sign of a good player."