J.A. Happ had his back turned to the Phillies' dugout, so at first he didn't see Charlie Manuel ambling toward the mound after the lefthander had plunked Washington's Josh Willingham with a pitch for the second time.
The young pitcher was rubbing the baseball, preparing to proceed in the sixth inning last night, when he noticed his manager was on the way, carrying a hook. Happ bobbed his head in frustration. He wanted to continue.
But on a night when the Phillies learned that they have to intensify their search for a starting pitcher because Brett Myers probably will be gone for the remainder of the season, Happ's value has increased. Since he was making only his second start of the season after coming out of the bullpen, and his pitch count was at 96, Manuel was taking no chances.
So Happ was pulled in the Phillies' 5-4 win over Washington at Citizens Bank Park, but not until he raised a little hope that the pitching rotation may not be quite the mess it seems.
"I think I might have been fading a little bit," said Happ, who improved to 3-0. "As a pitcher, you never want to come out in the middle of an inning, but that's not my call. He [Manuel] could probably see I was fatiguing a little bit."
Although his pitching line of 51/3 innings, 3 runs and 3 hits wasn't dazzling, Happ's second start of the season was nearly as effective as his first at Yankee Stadium a week ago.
"I felt pretty good about it," Happ said. "I mixed it up a little bit more. Obviously, I'd like to go deeper into the game, but I had a couple of tough battles with a couple of guys, and it got my pitch count up there."
Brad Lidge put aside his high-wire act with a perfect ninth inning for his 10th save, and Shane Victorino continued his white-hot hitting with four singles as the Phils raked six Washington pitchers for 16 hits. It was Victorino's third four-hit game of the season. He is 9 for 16 during the homestand.
Before Lidge went in, Scott Eyre and Ryan Madson held off the Nationals, who had shaved a 5-1 deficit to 5-4 in the sixth inning.
Lidge struck out Cristian Guzman and Nick Johnson to end the game. His problems have been well documented, so it was comforting to Manuel that the reliever cranked up perhaps his most aggressive effort of the season.
"He moved hitters off the plate," Manuel said. "The more aggressive he is, especially when he's pitching inside, they can't dig in against him."
The Phils led, 5-1, and the Nationals had two on and one out when Chad Durbin relieved Happ. Reliable through most of the season, Durbin had allowed only two inherited runners to score. That number doubled when Josh Bard doubled and Anderson Hernandez singled. Jayson Werth muffed Hernandez's hit, allowing Bard to score an unearned run, and suddenly it was 5-4 with a tense finish waiting. Two of the runs were charged to Happ.
Nationals lefthander Ross Detwiler made his third start in the majors. With a 2.45 ERA while holding opposing hitters to a .125 average, Detwiler had given Washington's beleaguered staff some encouragement. The Nats had made the 23-year-old the No. 6 overall pick in the 2007 draft, and they hope he will become a pivotal part of their future.
But this was his first big-league start on the road, and the Phillies showed him no mercy as they slammed him around for five runs and 10 hits in the four innings he lasted. Raul Ibanez broke a 1-1 tie by driving home Victorino and Chase Utley with a lined single to right-center during a three-run third inning. The Phillies boosted their lead to 5-1 when Jimmy Rollins scored on a fielder's-choice grounder by Utley.