A Milwaukee win combined with a Phillies sweep of the Rockies and suddenly things would have become incredibly interesting.
Even manager Charlie Manuel seemed to be coming down with a case of wild-card fever.
"I kind of feel like we're trying to get into [a race]," Manuel said after the first-game victory.
Nothing that happened in the second game changed Manuel's mind.
Even after the Cardinals pulled out an extra-inning win over the Brewers, the Phillies still had enough fight to overcome an early three-run deficit and complete a sweep of the doubleheader with a 7-4 win over the wretched Rockies.
The victory also finished off a three-game sweep and gave the Phillies 12 wins in their last 16 games. They trail the Cardinals by six games for the second wild card - but when the day began, there were five teams ahead of them in the race and now there are only three (St. Louis, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh). The Phillies (69-71) are tied with Milwaukee.
Manuel was asked if he felt the Phillies could make the teams in front of them nervous.
"Keep winning," he said. "See how many we can win and keep going. When you fight like that, you're going to definitely gain some ground on somebody."
Colorado helped the Phillies with five errors in the second game, but the Phils also helped themselves with 14 hits on a night when the light-hitting Michael Martinez was batting seventh and the lighter-hitting Steven Lerud batted eighth.
The most moving moment of the long day came in the bottom of the sixth inning of the second game when catcher Carlos Ruiz stepped to the plate as a pinch-hitter. Chants of "Chooch" were accompanied by a standing ovation. It was the first at-bat since Aug. 2 for the all-star catcher, who had been sidelined by an injury to his left foot.
Ruiz, on cue, singled. He remained in the game and also contributed an RBI single in the seventh that gave the Phillies a 6-4 lead. A single by Nate Schierholtz made it 7-4.
The rebuilt and rejuvenated bullpen got the victory in both ends of the doubleheader and all three games of the series. Six Phillies relievers combined for seven scoreless innings Sunday. Closer Jonathan Papelbon pitched out of a ninth-inning jam to get the first-game victory and posted his 32d save in the second game. B.J. Rosenberg pitched a perfect sixth inning to earn his first big-league victory in the second game.
"I do get the sense" that the team is rejuvenated, Papelbon said. "Most of those guys are in the bullpen with me. Those guys are the bridge to me and I don't think we are where we're at right now without a lot of those young guys in the bullpen who have stepped it up."
After picking up his first big-league win last week in Cincinnati, Tyler Cloyd struggled with his command in his third big-league start, surrendering four runs on eight hits in just four innings. The most crushing blow was a three-run home run by Colorado's Chris Nelson that put the Phillies in a 4-1 hole.
The Phillies got two runs back in the third on a two-run single by Ryan Howard, who finished the doubleheader with four RBIs. Ty Wigginton tied the score with a solo home run in the sixth, and a pinch-hit infield single by Kevin Frandsen later in the inning allowed the Phillies to take the lead.
Strong starting and relief pitching was the primary reason the Phillies pulled out the win in the opener of the doubleheader. Cole Hamels allowed just two runs in seven innings and Howard provided a two-run double in the third inning, erasing a 2-0 deficit and accounting for the Phillies' only runs off Rockies righthander Tyler Chatwood.
The score remained tied at 2-2 until the bottom of the ninth when the Phillies sandwiched a couple of hits around a couple of walks to win it.
Jimmy Rollins reached on a one-out single off reliever Matt Belisle and landed on second when catcher Wilin Rosario was charged with his third passed ball of the game. After Nate Schierholtz hit into a fielder's choice, Belisle walked Chase Utley. Another passed ball allowed Schierholtz and Utley to advance a base and brought orders from the Colorado dugout to intentionally walk Howard.
Mayberry followed with a low liner to left field that came out of outfielder Carlos Gonzalez's glove as he attempted to make a diving catch. It took a few seconds before a safe sign by third-base umpire Rob Drake triggered a slugfest celebration, with Mayberry as the primary target at first base.
"It seemed like an eternity" before the call, Mayberry said. "It seems like luck is starting to switch our way, which is a good thing coming down the stretch."
Amazingly, the Phillies have put some meaning back into this September.
"For a while we were kind of playing spoiler and then 'spoiler' kind of dominoed into 'Now we have a shot,' " Papelbon said. "We've got to get to .500 first and we've got to worry about ourselves. We have to go out and do what we're capable of doing. That's kind of what it boils down to."
Contact Bob Brookover at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @brookob on Twitter.