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Moyer's win comes at a good time

The last time there was champagne in the Phillies' clubhouse, it sprayed through the air in geysers, ruining carpet and clothing, burning eyes in celebration of a World Series title.

The last time there was champagne in the Phillies' clubhouse, it sprayed through the air in geysers, ruining carpet and clothing, burning eyes in celebration of a World Series title.

Yesterday, in a different kind of celebration, four golden bottles of Armand de Brignac sat on two silver trays. Players and coaches stopped by Jamie Moyer's locker, filled a flute, and toasted the 46-year-old lefthander's 250th career victory.

It was like the difference between a freshman kegger and afternoon tea at Buckingham Palace.

Moyer deserved the bubbly. It is rare enough for a pitcher to reach 250 wins these days. It is unheard of for one to do so after winning just 34 games (while losing 64) before his 30th birthday.

But Moyer was more interested in celebrating a rare home sweep for the defending champions, as well as the end of an oddly out-of-sync May. The last game of the month was one that felt reassuringly like 2008: Moyer flummoxed the eminently flummoxable Washington Nationals and benefited from a few timely hits, good fielding, and a clean save by closer Brad Lidge.

That sense of restored order should help this team as it navigates its first major crisis since the start of the season. With Brett Myers facing hip surgery, the Phillies have a hole in their rotation. While that is a problem that will require addressing, it should be noted for perspective's sake that the Phillies go through this, or worse, pretty much every year about this time.

June pitching problems are as regular as the summer equinox.

Last year, the Phillies' June rotation included triple-A bound Myers and Adam Eaton. They were 1-6 in June and a combined 3-13 in May and June.

The year before, Freddy Garcia and Jon Lieber were still in the rotation in June. Kyle Kendrick came up from double-A Reading. J.D. Durbin filled in for a while. The year before that, June brought starts by Scott Mathieson, Eude Brito, and Matt Smith.

Each year, the September rotation is different from the April rotation. Each year, someone comes along - Joe Blanton, Kyle Lohse, Moyer himself - in midseason to shore up the rotation. That someone has never quite been the big name that everyone in baseball is competing to acquire before the trade deadline.

The last two years, in spite of all that angst, the Phillies won their division. Last year, of course, they won it all. Pitching wound up being the key.

The Phillies' pitching seemed worse this spring because we weren't comparing it to last spring. We were comparing it to that sterling stretch drive and golden postseason.

"Everyone wants to get off to the same start we finished with last year," Lidge said. "It's not realistic to have everyone stay on that pace. But at the same time, people get back to where they are. We've all pitched long enough to know where we're going to be. Right now, we're getting back into that rhythm. We're doing what we normally do."

The Phillies have June to figure out whether they can fill Myers' spot internally and whether Moyer is back on track or was merely facing the Nationals. They have June to see if J.A. Happ is for real or if that spot in the rotation is also in need of a fix.

The fewer holes to fill, the easier it will be for general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. to keep this team on track to contend again. One thing seems very clear. He should emphasize winning now over hanging on to minor-league prospects. There should be no absolute untouchables in the system, not while this team is ready to win again now.

Josh Outman, the young pitcher included in the deal for Blanton, is 2-0 for Oakland with a 3.06 ERA. He would look pretty good as a candidate to replace Myers right about now. There were years when you would see that and think the Phillies had been duped.

But who cares? The Phillies won the World Series with Blanton. Outman can win five Cy Young Awards and that would still be a good deal. That doesn't mean you throw Carlos Carrasco or Lou Marson away for a C-plus starter, but it does mean the priority must be to put the current team over the top.

The Phillies won't have the pleasure of the Nationals' company for quite some time. They embark on a stretch - a West Coast trip, the Mets and, later, the Red Sox at home - that according to Moyer, will tell the team a lot about itself. With this team, in June, that usually means figuring out the pitching. Get it right and there's a chance for more champagne in October.

It was an appropriately classy celebration of Moyer's career milestone. But everyone, including Moyer, had a lot more fun spraying that stuff than sipping it.