It's never been easy for Jamie Moyer.
Then again, it probably wasn't supposed to be for the 46-year-old lefthander, who earned his 250th career win today.
When a fastball that tops out at 82 m.p.h. and a curveball that floats across the plate like a Wiffle ball are main weapons in a big-league pitcher's arsenal, the margin for error is razor thin and a career frequently is pushed to the precipice.
Moyer has been on that margin for most of his 23 seasons, and he twice has been released, only to resurface to continue to defy the odds that his age and modest talents wage against him.
Given that, there was no reason to believe Moyer's 250th victory would come easily. It didn't. It took six tries before he nailed it down in the Phillies' 4-2 win over Washington today at Citizens Bank Park on a sun-splashed day that was created for baseball.
After the Phillies completed a three-game sweep of the dreadful Nationals, Moyer typically downplayed an achievement accomplished by only 45 others.
"I never really thought about it," said Moyer, who pitched six innings and allowed one run and three hits without a walk. "For me, it takes so much effort to play, to prepare to play, and I really believe that my focus has been on that, not milestones or numbers or personal things that happen.
"I was taught to play the game as a team and not an individual, and that's really how I've approached things. I haven't really reflected on personal things. I think there may be a time when I'll do that. I'm proud to have played as long as I have. I'm excited. I'm probably not showing that, but I'm excited to get my 250th win, but we have a lot of baseball to play. That's what's exciting for me."
(Some statistical services list Moyer as 44th, but they exclude Bobby Mathews and Al Spalding, whose numbers before 1876 are not universally recognized. Baseball-Reference.com includes the two.)
Moyer, who has won 216 games since he turned 30, pitched his best game of the season while breaking a four-game losing streak. He spun a web of confusion around the Nationals with the location of his pitches, the M.O. that's kept him going for more than two decades.
Perhaps Washington's Adam Dunn, who has 16 home runs, best illustrated the Nats' frustration against Moyer in the sixth inning. He broke his bat and popped out meekly to first base on a two-strike inside fastball, then impaled the bat handle into the turf in anger.
"His success or failure is always about location because he doesn't have a 95-mile-an-hour fastball," said catcher Chris Coste, who hit a solo homer in the second inning, singled, and walked twice.
Aside from Josh Willingham's fourth-inning homer, Moyer never even got into trouble. He faced the minimum three batters in three of the innings, and should have in another, but committed an error when he dropped a toss from Ryan Howard with one out in the third.
When Moyer left the game, the Phils were in front, 3-1, on a run-scoring double by Chase Utley, Coste's homer, and a grounder by Pedro Feliz that scored Raul Ibanez, who had tripled.
"Today was a great event, to see the way he was able to pitch against a very good hitting team and get that win," pitcher Cole Hamels said. "Especially being able to get it in Philadelphia. It's something where it really does show the mental toughness he has."
Afterward in the clubhouse, Jimmy Rollins led a champagne toast to Moyer, who was asked whether he ever seriously thought about retiring during the darkest days of his career. An alum of Souderton High and St. Joseph's, Moyer alluded to his father-in-law, the former basketball coach Digger Phelps, in his response.
"No, but my father-in-law tried to talk me out of playing, but I didn't listen to him," Moyer said. "I'm not a basketball player, and I'm assuming a lot of his basketball players didn't, either.
"I've always felt I've had a burning desire to play. In those years, I really looked at it as though you're going to have to strip the uniform off my back. I've gotten released a couple of times, and you know what? It fueled the fire for me a little bit more."