There's a compelling stack of evidence that the Phillies reached that moment of truth at Sun Life Stadium in Florida on Aug. 5. They beat the Marlins, but it wasn't easy. They were leading, 2-0, in the bottom of the seventh when J.C. Romero relieved starter Roy Oswalt.
Romero, who didn't get an out, allowed both inherited runners to score, one on a bases-loaded walk. Jose Conteras came in and two more inherited runners scored. The Phillies finally tied it in the ninth and won it in the 10th.
Since then, going into last night:
Romero had pitched three times. The Phillies were ahead by five, behind by six and behind by four when he entered the games.
Contreras had pitched three times. The Phillies were down by six and four and ahead by six.
Danys Baez had pitched four times. The Phillies were ahead by five and trailed by six, five and three.
And Rule 5 selection David Herndon had pitched just three since July 27. The Phillies were behind by seven, five and three runs when he appeared.
In that 11-game span starting Aug. 5, Ryan Madson and Chad Durbin have each come out of the bullpen seven times. Eight of those 14 occasions the margin was two or fewer runs. And Brad Lidge has pitched four times, all in save situations, converting each opportunity.
It's worked, too. Down at Broad and Pattison, Harry the K has been singing "High Hopes" on an almost nightly basis.
There's a catch, of course. There's always a catch.
The nature of bullpens is that it's always difficult to find the right balance between too much work and not enough, to keep the relievers sharp without burning them out. And with more doubleheaders (one) than off days (none) scheduled between now and Sept. 9, at some point something's gotta give for a team that keeps using the same three pitchers out of the 'pen.
Madson, for example, pitched in his fourth straight game Wednesday night.
It's hard to say when the tipping point might be reached. It helps to have Roy Halladay starting every fifth day. Mix in a few lopsided games and maybe even a rainout and maybe this approach can be sustained for a while. But it can't continue indefinitely. It just can't. Even after roster limits are expanded, it's not like there will be an influx of arms that Charlie Manuel and Rich Dubee can't wait to put into a tie game in the eighth. If those guys existed, they would be here now.
The same principle holds with a waiver trade. If a reliever, especially a lefthanded difference-maker, was obtainable you have to think the deal would already be done.
So the Phillies have gone to the whip and, honestly, they don't have much choice. They're trying to catch the Braves in the National League East. That's the surest route to the playoffs. Besides, finishing first can have its privileges - most notably the possibility of homefield advantage - that wild-card teams don't enjoy.
They've reached the whatever-it-takes portion of the schedule. In fact, it sure looks like they've been there for a couple of weeks.
AROUND THE BASES
Phillies righthander Roy Oswalt is listed as being 6 feet tall, the Giants' two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum at 5-11. Oswalt turns 33 at the end of the month and has remained remarkably consistent throughout his career; Lincecum, 26, has struggled this season. "If you're smaller in size, you're going to have to do twice the work a bigger guy's going to do," Oswalt told the San Francisco Chronicle. "If he's not hurt, it's all about conditioning."
Quote of the week:
Indians manager Manny Acta, on losing to the Orioles, who have the worst record in the majors: "We're not going to look at them like they're the worst team in the majors, because we're not exactly the Yankees ourselves."
If the Dodgers don't make the playoffs this season - and it would take a minor miracle at this point to do so - it will be the first time in 15 seasons that a Joe Torre-managed team has not been to the postseason.
Blah, blah, blah:
There's increasing speculation that White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who has 1 year left on his contract, is trying to talk his way out of the job so that he can be a candidate in Florida if the Marlins decide not to keep interim manager Edwin Rodriguez. Item: Asked about fans who are unhappy the team didn't re-sign Jim Thome, he sniped: "If people don't like it, good. They don't like it, they don't have to watch the bleeping White Sox."
Cubs lose, Cubs lose:
The Lou Piniella era at Wrigley Field is ending with a whimper. The Cubbies started 10 rookies Wednesday against San Diego. Said general manager Jim Hendry: "We're somewhere between miserable and sad every day."
When the Padres won their 72nd game this week, they surpassed the over-under of 71 1/2 wins set by Las Vegas before the season.
BY THE NUMBERS
Home runs in August hit by the A's going into last night. Oakland had just 72 homers for the season.
Straight starts at Yankee Stadium without a loss for CC Sabathia. He's 14-0, 2.27 in those games.
Opposing hitters' OPS against Nationals righthander Jason Marquis this year. He starts against Roy Halladay tonight at Citizens Bank Park.
Research and development:
The Pirates have spent $30.7 million signing draft choices over the last 3 years, more than any other team. That's almost as much as their $34 million big-league payroll this season.
PHAIR AND FOUL
Ups and downs:
There has been a lot of hand-wringing recently about the fact that uberprospect Domonic Brown's playing time has been cut drastically since Shane Victorino came off the disabled list and the possibility that he may be sent back to Triple A Lehigh Valley when Ryan Howard is healthy. Puh-leeze. Howard was a September call-up in 2004. He started 2005 at Triple A, was promoted and demoted in May . . . and went on to win the Rookie of the Year that season and the NL MVP the following year. Chase Utley was demoted twice in 2003 and once in 2004. If Brown gets sent down he naturally will be disappointed. But he won't be scarred for life. Especially since he almost certainly will be back in September.
A note about nothing:
The Phillies have been shut out by the Mets five times in 12 games already this season. That's the most times they've been blanked by the same team in a year since the Dodgers shut them down five times in 1983. The last time they were shut out more often was seven, by the Mets in 1969. Of course, New York still has six more shots at the Phils before the 2010 schedule concludes. Stay tuned.
Former Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate and Steelers wide receiver Lynn Swann still holds the long jump record at Serra High School in San Mateo, Calif. Whose record did he break in 1970?
Whatever happened to . . . ?:
When Greg Dobbs was designated for assignment Wednesday, he became the 14th member of the Phillies' 2008 roster who is not presently on the current active roster. Ryan Howard and Jamie Moyer are on the disabled list while Eric Bruntlett, Pat Burrell, Clay Condrey, Chris Coste, Scott Eyre, Pedro Feliz, J.A. Happ, Geoff Jenkins, Brett Myers, Matt Stairs and So Taguchi are out of the organization entirely.
Thanks for the memories:
Skip "Memory Lane" Clayton produced a 3-hour radio show 35 years ago for the silver anniversary of the Phillies 1950 Whiz Kids. Featuring original interviews with all eight starting position players, Hall of Famer Robin Roberts, Curt Simmons, 1950 MVP Jim Konstanty and manager Eddie Sawyer, it will be re-aired Sunday on WBCB (1490-AM) in Levittown from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.
Easy as 1-2-3:
Sidelined Phillies lefty Jamie Moyer is one of three pitchers to retire the side on three pitches this year. The others: Madison Bumgarner (Giants) and Tommy Hunter (Rangers).
Former Phillies manager Jim Fregosi. Thanks to old friend Doug Kelly for sending this along.