These Phillies won their 92d game Thursday, a convincing 7-2 victory over the Brewers, makeshift lineup be damned. With 22 games to play, eclipsing the franchise record for 101 wins is no longer a dream; it's expected.
The most recent victory in a season littered with them was impressive because it came against the National League's second-best team and prohibitive challengers to the Phillies' success.
Before Thursday, Milwaukee was an astounding 50-19 at Miller Park. Their powerful offense and unheralded pitching shine in front of Wisconsinites. (Never mind the fact that many of the 41,646 in attendance Thursday focused their attention to a football game being played some 115 miles to the north.)
Then the Phillies came here and won with a double-play combination (Wilson Valdez and Martinez) hardly known for their offensive abilities, a leftfielder (Ben Francisco) who managed all of eight at-bats in the 38 previous days, and a first baseman (John Mayberry Jr.) who had started four games there in his career.
"When you start winning games and you have success, when you put your reserve players in there, they want to play and be a part of it," Manuel said. "They want to show they can earn the right to be on our team. That can bring your team completely together."
It helped, of course, that Cole Hamels started for the Phillies and tossed the team's 17th complete game of the season. The last National League team with that many complete games was the 1998 Atlanta Braves.
"I'm trying to keep up with the rest of these guys in complete games," Hamels said, "so I guess that's saying something."
With two outs in the sixth, Shane Victorino doubled to left. The next seven Phillies reached base, with run-scoring hits by Valdez, Hunter Pence, Mayberry, Carlos Ruiz, and Francisco. Milwaukee pitchers threw 40 pitches in the sixth inning.
"That was pretty good, wasn't it?" Manuel said.
With Utley (mild concussion), Rollins (groin strain), and Howard (left foot bursitis) sidelined, the chance for victory decreased. Then again, nights like this display the depth of a (soon-to-be) record-breaking team.
Look no further than Valdez, whose double ignited the fruitful sixth inning. Valdez is hitting .382 with runners in scoring position. That ranks second in the National League (minimum 75 plate appearances) behind only Cincinnati's Joey Votto, the reigning NL MVP.
It's Sept. 9 and only six other Phillies teams have ever had more wins over a full season. Manuel tied Harry Wright for second all-time in wins by a Phillies manager, and with 10 more victories, he'll set a new standard.
The magic number to clinch a postseason spot is four. It's 11 for a divisional title and home-field advantage through the playoffs. In other words, once the meaningless games mount in late September, there will be many more days with Phillies lineups like Thursday's.
And in a magical regular season like none other in Philadelphia history, that's a sight to behold.
Contact staff writer Matt Gelb
at email@example.com or @magelb on Twitter.