WES HELMS was back in the clubhouse studying Brewers reliever Derrick Turnbow on television, prepping himself in case he was called on to pinch-hit, when he noticed it.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel was standing in his accustomed spot in the dugout when he noticed it.
Turnbow had abandoned his split-fingered fastball.
This was no small discovery. The Phillies went into the bottom of the eighth inning last night at Citizens Bank Park trailing by four runs. Milwaukee hadn't lost a game all season when leading after seven. It's one of the reasons they have the best record in the National League.
But the Phillies had started a rally against lefthander Brian Shouse and now it looked as if Turnbow was going with nothing but heat. He throws hard, but that's not enough in the big leagues. A contagious idea began to take root: Maybe the Phillies could win this game after all.
Sure enough, line drives started ringing off their bats. Six runs and a Brett Myers save later, they shook hands on the field after a rousing 8-6 win.
"When we play like this, it is how good we are, how good we can be," Manuel said.
Added Helms: "They've been playing great ball, but the way I look at it, that means we beat the best and we can roll with it. I think you'll see a little different air of confidence around this team."
Well, momentum is notoriously fickle. The Phillies are still two games under .500. And as good as the Brewers have been, most of their damage has been done at Miller Park, where they're 16-5. On the road, they're just 9-8.
Still, a six-run rally in the eighth is nothing to be sneezed at.
With no save situation in effect, Brewers manager Ned Yost elected to have Shouse start the inning. Aaron Rowand led off with a single and Shane Victorino followed with a double, leaving runners at second and third.
With the potential tying run on deck, here came Turnbow. And since he started the night with a 1.76 earned run average, the Brewers had no reason to be overly concerned.
Except that Turnbow, mixing his fastball and splitter, walked Jimmy Rollins to load the bases. Then he bounced a wild pitch past catcher Johnny Estrada, allowing Rowand to score and the other runners to move up.
Chase Utley singled on a splitter, driving in two. The Phillies were now within a run, but the Brewers were still in decent shape.
Except that then, according to both Manuel and Utley, he changed his approach.
"After Utley got that hit, it looked like [Turnbow] lost faith in his splitter and started throwing all fastballs," Manuel said. "He became a thrower. He threw a lot of fastballs and we were able to time him down."
Up the tunnel, Helms noticed the same thing. Soon, the insight would come in handy.
With one out, Greg Dobbs and Abraham Nunez ripped hard singles to right, reloading the bases. Carlos Ruiz hit a grounder to first baseman Prince Fielder who came home with the throw, too late to get Utley who broke on contact. The score was tied, 6-6.
That's when Manuel brought Helms in to pinch-hit for reliever Clay Condrey.
"He had started throwing a lot of heaters," Helms said. "In that situation, with the bases loaded and a tie game, I knew he probably wasn't going to throw a split unless he got ahead. In watching the video, his fastball was straight, so I was just looking for that in an area. And I got it."
Got it and lined it off the scoreboard in right to drive in Dobbs with what proved to be the winning run.
"You see the guys ahead of you hitting the ball hard and it makes you think you can hit it hard, too," Helms said. "That's why this game is 90 percent mental. [Turnbow] is like a lot of pitchers who throw hard. When he's getting his split over, he can be dominating. But when he isn't, it's a different story."
The Brewers, who lost to the Mets at Shea Stadium on Sunday, have a two-game losing streak for the first time since the first week of the season.
The Phillies briefly took the lead in the fourth after Utley singled – their first hit of the game – and Pat Burrell followed with a homer to right-center. Burrell, who had one homer in the team's first 34 games, has now gone deep three times in the last four games.
Manuel shuffled his lineup again, moving Rowand into the leadoff spot for the third time this season and batting Rollins third.
His rationale: Rowand had a high base percentage (.428) and Rollins had some previous success (.429 in 7 at bats including a double and a home run) against Brewers starter Dave Bush.
The strategy didn't pay off until the sixth. With the Phils down by two, Rowand led off with a single and Rollins added one-out base hit that left runners at first and third.
At that point, Yost made what appeared to be a curious move. He brought righthander Matt Wise out of the bullpen even though two of the next three hitters (Utley, Dobbs) were lefthanded. And the guy hitting between them, Burrell, had been markedly better against righthanders (.290) at that point than against lefties.
But Wise, who has a terrific changeup, used it to get Utley to ground out to second and Burrell to strike out, extinguishing the threat.
That decision worked out for the Brewers. The one in the eighth didn't. *