By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report
The Phillies, as you know, are a long way out of the pennant chase, but the way they played Saturday night in their 4-2 win over the Washington Nationals, there’s a huge part of Phillies fans and the players, for that matter, that wishes they push the reset button and restart the season with everybody healthy and playing the way they are now.
With the postseason out of the question, finishing the year on a good note with winning records over good teams is the only solace they can take out of a season that’s had its lion’s share of bad breaks and setbacks.
“I think it means something whenever you win games if you have a winning record against a team, but at the same time, just the fact that we can some games, if we can keep going to close out the season and enjoy playing the rest of the way and get some victories, I’d like to see what happens,” said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel.
The Phils can enjoy the win over the first-place Nationals that had a little bit of everything that defined the Phillies success over the last five years. First, the Phillies got a solid outing from starting pitcher Roy Halladay, who had just one bad inning when he allowed a pair of runs when he allowed a bases loaded single to Nationals second baseman Steve Lombardozi.
Halladay (8-7) kept the Nationals at bay by holding them to two runs on seven hits with six strikeouts and two walks. The 2010 Cy Young Award resembled the guy he was two years ago outside of the fifth inning with his ability to mow down the opposition and pitch his way out of jams.
For the third straight night, the Phillies bullpen kept the opposition off the scoreboard and enabled the Phillies to hold onto a lead in the late going, something they’ve struggled with during the first half of the season. The much-maligned Antonio Bastardo struck out the side in the eighth and closer Jonathan Papelbon slammed the door shut on Washington with his 29th save of the season.
“I always feel like we when we get in close games that we have a chance to win with our starting pitching, but our bullpen with the experience that they’re getting is going to pay off for us,” Manuel said. “The way we’ve played the last couple of days proves that we can stay in close games and win.”
In addition to Halladay’s solid effort, the Phillies got timely hitting, something that was a regular staple of Phillies victories during their success of the last five years. Tonight, it was John Mayberry Jr. leading the Phils hit parade as he drove in three of the team’s four runs. He had an RBI single, a home run and a sacrifice fly.
“I think that Doc really set the tone, he threw the ball extremely well as is customary. We just wanted go out there and support him, getting as many runs as we can get,” Mayberry said. “You have able to come up with big hits in big situations and you have to be able to get that run from third with less than two outs. Little things like that make big differences in games.”
Another thing the Phillies can hang their hats on is that they are 16-10 since the trading away former centerfielder Shane Victorino to the Los Angeles Dodgers and Hunter Pence to the San Francisco Giants.
“Obviously, we wanted to play good baseball all year-long. In the first half of the year we didn’t do that,” said second baseman Chase Utley, who went 1-for-3 with a run batted in, a run scored and two stolen bases including his steal of third base that enabled Mayberry to drive home for the Phillies final score of the game. “Every game is important from here on out. I think we do a good job of preparing the same way whether it’s the best team or the worst team.”
While most of the world has written off the Phillies 2012 season as a lost campaign, Utley believes the Phillies still have a chance for the postseason. When asked that by a reporter, he looked her in the eye and with a straight face said: “Absolutely.”