ATLANTA - One month down, five to go.
The Phillies didn't get off to the fast start they talked about so frequently in spring training, but it could have been a whole lot worse.
After opening the season 4-11, they finished April with an 11-14 record, better than the 10-14 mark they assembled in each of the last two Aprils.
"We have a lot of games left, and if we keep our cool and play baseball the way I know we can, we'll have a chance," manager Charlie Manuel said.
He meant a chance at making the postseason. The Phils haven't been there since 1993, and the pressure is on to get there after staying in contention into the final weekend each of the last two seasons.
Here's a quick look back at the first month.
Slow start. The Phils blew late leads in the first two games and let a 1-0 lead get away with two outs in the ninth April 20 in Cincinnati as they fell to 4-11, their worst 15-game start since 1987. That team went 80-82 and finished 15 games out of first.
The fallout. After a loss to the Mets on April 17, Manuel had it out with talk-radio host Howard Eskin, who wanted to know when the manager was going to get tough on the team. Manuel stayed in character, didn't smash any furniture, and tried to stay positive.
But the day after the April 20 loss, he called a meeting in Cincinnati that lasted 80 minutes. Manuel told the players that he believed in them. Relax and trust your ability, he told them. The tough love came from pitcher Jamie Moyer, who rose in the meeting and announced: "We're playing like a bunch of [wimps]." The Phils then won seven of nine.
The big move. Unable to trade surplus starter Jon Lieber for a back-end reliever and desperate to strengthen their bullpen, the Phils moved opening-day starter Brett Myers to relief on April 18. Lieber went to the rotation and turned in three straight solid starts.
The next move? Closer Tom Gordon blew three saves in the first month. Last year, he didn't blow his third save until July 25. With each passing day, it has become clearer that Myers is the closer of the future, and the future could be arriving very soon.
In the division. The Phils were awful against the powers of the NL East, going 0-4 against Atlanta and 1-3 against the Mets.
The offense. The Phils hit .270 as a team in the first month, fourth best in the NL, and scored 123 runs, also fourth best. They would have had more if they hit better than .233 (13th in the NL) with runners in scoring position. Chase Utley led the league with 18 extra-base hits in April.
The power boss. Who'da thunk it? Jimmy Rollins led the league with nine homers in April. If he wins the home-run crown, he will become the shortest player to do so since 5-foot-6 Hack Wilson hit 56 for the 1930 Cubs. Rollins is listed at 5-8.
The power loss. Reigning NL MVP Ryan Howard, who hit .313 with 58 homers last season, hit just .221 with three homers in the first month and showed signs of frustration.
Rebounding department. Aaron Rowand and Pat Burrell, two players in need of rebounds at the plate, had strong months. Rowand hit .378 (and had a career-best 16-game hitting streak) in April, good for fourth in the NL. Burrell hit .292. He had just one homer and nine RBIs, but his 21 walks helped fuel a .447 on-base percentage.
Starting pitching. Ageless lefty Jamie Moyer (3-1, 2.65) has been the team's most consistent starter, and 23-year-old lefty Cole Hamels, who started last night, already has a 15-strikeout game under his belt. Newcomers Freddy Garcia (5.65) and Adam Eaton (7.71) both have high ERAs.
All that talk about fast starts and slow starts is over. It's May. The Kentucky Derby is on Saturday. The tomatoes will be going in soon. On to the rest of the season.
"Over a long season, how good we are should show up," said Manuel, who remains high on his club.