IT'S FUNNY. The first 6 weeks of the season, you couldn't watch a Phillies victory without noticing their lingering flaws. Last night, you couldn't watch a loss without noticing a lot of their late-breaking attributes.
That could be a reflection on those of us who cover the team, except Charlie Manuel has sounded a similar tone. After previous defeats, the Phillies manager's mood had at times bordered on despondent. The offense wasn't hitting. The injuries were piling up. The energy was lacking.
Last night, though, there was none of that. The team that caught some breaks and made the most of them won. Sure, a previously untouchable Ryan Madson allowed a three-run double to Jay Bruce with two outs in the ninth inning to lift the Reds to the 6-3 victory. That's going to happen. Sure, the Phillies had a runner thrown out at the plate, and a miscommunication on a bunt, both of which proved costly. Again, those things are going to happen.
But the Phillies got three hits and a loud out from a red-hot Raul Ibanez. Chase Utley smacked his first hit of the season. A trio of young relievers pitched three scoreless innings in a tie game. Carlos Ruiz had a productive performance out of the six hole for a second straight night.
"They caught a break there and they took advantage of it," Manuel said. "Things kind of went their way. You guys have been talking about us beating them all the time. They got us tonight."
Losses are never inevitable, but the Phillies seemed due for the type of course correction that occurred last night. They had defeated the Reds eight straight times, a stretch that included two 1-0 victories, a six-run comeback in the bottom of the ninth, and two complete-game postseason shutouts, one of them a no-hitter by Roy Halladay. Madson, meanwhile, had allowed just one run in 19 innings heading into the ninth inning.
It started innocently enough: first a bunt single that Madson and Placido Polanco converged on, a throwing error by Madson, an intentional walk, then an infield single. But Bruce's game-winner was honest beyond a doubt: a three-run double to right-centerfield that cleared the bases and dropped the Phillies to 29-19.
"It was a good run for me," said Madson (2-1), whose earned run average went from 0.47 to 1.80. "Just get back out there tomorrow and start another one."
In some respects, the Phillies were fortunate just to have their closer on the mound. Rookie righthander Vance Worley spent the first five innings pitching in and out of trouble, walking four and throwing just 50 of his 93 pitches for strikes. The costliest walk came at the start of the fifth inning, issued to opposing starter Johnny Cueto. The baseball gods always seem to make pitchers pay for such sins, and Worley later did exactly that, allowing a two-run single to Brandon Phillips that tied the game at 3-3.
Up to that point, the Phillies' offense seemed to be in possession of the momentum from the 10-3 shellacking they handed the Reds the night before. Cincinnati scored a run in the first inning when Joey Votto doubled and scored on a two-out, bloop single by Scott Rolen, but the Phillies answered in the second when Ryan Howard and Ibanez hit back-to-back doubles and Ibanez scored on a sacrifice fly by Domonic Brown. Ibanez now has 27 hits, four home runs, seven doubles and 11 RBI in his last 68 at-bats, dating back to the game in which he snapped an 0-for-35 slump.
The Phillies had a chance to score in the third inning when Rollins hit a one-out double and Utley followed with a single to centerfield. But Drew Stubbs easily threw out Rollins at home after third-base coach Juan Samuel waved him around. Instead of men on first and third with one out, the Phillies had a runner on second with two out, and Polanco grounded out to end the frame.
Otherwise, there were a lot of positives. The Phillies got three innings of shutout relief from David Herndon, Michael Stutes and Antonio Bastardo. Worley showed some of the rust you might expect from somebody who had not pitched more than three innings since May 4, but the 23-year-old righthander expressed confidence that he will improve. With Joe Blanton on the disabled list for the foreseeable future, Worley likely will get several more opportunities.
"Having the five innings today, I think I'll be a little bit better my next time," Worley said. "Right now, I think I will be in a starting role. Just try to get my feet back under me and try to get some innings."
For more Phillies coverage and opinion, read David Murphy's blog, High Cheese, at www.philly.com/HighCheese. Follow him on Twitter at