NOW, IT SEEMS, everything is clicking.
The middle relievers shut down the Nationals. Previously unproductive hitters got big hits late. The closer closed.
The Phillies won, 6-3, their fourth win in a row since Charlie Manuel's mellow team meeting before Saturday's game in Cincinnati.
"Don't think about tomorrow. Think about today," Manuel said. "Pretty soon, you'll be over .500."
Wes Helms and Carlos Ruiz got rare hits with runners in scoring position to drive the three-run, game-winning rally in the eighth inning. The Phillies had been anemically bad with RISP en route to their 4-11 start.
Helms was 4-for-23 with runners in scoring position entering the at-bat. Pat Burrell, whose RBI double in the sixth cut it to 3-2, was at first base thanks to a full-count walk worked from 0-2. Chase Utley, whose two-out double in the sixth set up Burrell's clutch hit and who was grazed by a pitch to lead off the eighth, moved to second.
Helms muscled a 1-2 jam shot to centerfield. Burrell, a deliberate runner, hustled from impact and headed to third; centerfielder Ryan Church's three-hop throw got past third baseman Ryan Zimmerman and trickled into the dugout. Burrell scored. Helms went to second.
"I felt a little off in my swing," said Helms, who got an RISP hit Monday, too. He was signed as righthanded insurance in case Burrell didn't produce behind MVP Ryan Howard, but he hadn't been coming through. "I don't know if I was trying too hard with a new team or what."
Aaron Rowand then flied out - he had done his work, driving in the Phils' first run in the second, and hitting his third homer of the season to tie it at 3 in the seventh - and Ruiz was on the spot, 2-for-19 with RISP and conscious that he had been pull-happy.
He singled up the middle, scoring Helms.
"I don't really feel pressure, even though my numbers weren't right," Ruiz said. "I came to the park tonight knowing that if I stayed centered, didn't try to pull the ball, I would come through."
That set up closer Tom Gordon, who recorded his fourth save in six tries.
"I think it's just a matter of time before he settles in," Manuel said of Gordon, whose sharp curveball made a cameo. "He's getting there."
Starter Jamie Moyer allowed three runs in six innings. Since joining the Phillies via trade in August last year Moyer, 44, is 7-3 with a 3.81 earned run average in 78 innings in 12 starts.
Before Gordon, Ryan Madson and Antonio Alfonseca dealt a scoreless inning apiece. Alfonseca got the win. It was Alfonseca's sixth straight scoreless outing and Madson's third.
"Alfonseca's been tremendous," Manuel said. "Madson's coming around."
Washington's Jason Bergmann had come around himself.
He allowed two runs in six innings and needed only 87 pitches to get there. He had felt woozy all day and asked out after the sixth, drained.
"It kind of shocked us when he came out of the game," Helms said. "Bergmann had his stuff tonight."
Saul Rivera didn't. Rowand hammered his second pitch into the leftfield seats.
Neither did lefty Micah Bowie, who took the loss, because he hit Utley to start the eighth. Ditto Jon Rauch, who had Burrell in his pocket that inning, but walked him. Rauch then gave up Helms' hit on that 1-2 pitch and had Ruiz drive in another.
It was a resilient effort from the Phillies, who did not shudder under stress.
Rowand missed a diving catch in the second that made what would have been a single a leadoff triple, but the Nationals scored only that run. Helms committed his third error of the season with one out in the ninth. Gordon threw a wild pitch to the next batter.
But they settled, and won. Maybe they don't settle 5 days ago.
"That's part of confidence," said Helms, referring to what Manuel instilled Saturday. "Little mistakes don't get us down."
Not lately. *