First thing's first: the premise under which we will be operating here at High Cheese is that the size of the Phillies' deficit in the National League East is irrelevant, and that the only pertinent numbers are 36 and 71, which are the number of runs they have been outscored by, and the number of wins they are on pace for.

That they are within 5.5 games of the division lead after last night's victory over the Braves is more a curiosity than anything.

Fact is, a 71-win team has never come close to qualifying for the postseason, and the Phillies are playing at a 71-win pace, and while the NL East may be up for grabs, it just requires too much effort to try to pretend like the team we've watched over the first couple months of the season is capable of grabbing it.

Maybe if Cliff Lee was healthy I could convince myself to milk a few stories at the Phillies' improbable life. But, for the foreseeable, three out of every five games are going to be started by Kyle Kendrick, Roberto Hernandez and David Buchanan, which is one of the reasons this team has not won more than three games in a row in over a year.

We're at the point in the season where we're just sitting around waiting for a team to make a run. The Braves increasingly look like something other than that kind of team. I believe the Nationals have it in them. Those two teams meet this weekend.

Anyway. . .

I shouldn't have starting things off by tinkling in your grits, because I actually bring good news. One of the biggest reasons the Phillies were able to outlast the Braves for the win last night was the bullpen, which followed another excellent outing by Cole Hamels by holding Atlanta to one run in six innings.

Since a 5-3 win over the Dodgers on May 24, the bullpen has a 2.31 ERA wtih 78 strikeouts and 29 walks in 66 innings. The unit will be something to watch for the rest of the season. It's had hot streaks before, including around this time last year. What it needs is consistency. A rejuvenated Justin De Fratus and an improving Mario Hollands have played big roles. Obviously, so has Jake Diekman.

Anyway, there's your positive takeaway.