MILWAUKEE - For the third day in a row, the Phillies looked like a winning team, from their timely hitting, bullpen pitching and overall play.
All that said, their closer would like to find a new home at some point in the next 3 weeks.
Following the Phillies' 4-1 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers last night, their third straight win over the team with the National League's best record, Jonathan Papelbon expressed his desire to move from the last-place team to a contender before the July 31 trade deadline.
Papelbon's words were often subtle. Sometimes he decided against words, period, and opted for a nod or head shake.
Regardless, Papelbon, whom the Phillies rewarded with the richest contract for a relief pitcher in history three offseasons ago, is ready to join a contender.
"Some guys want to stay on a losing team?" Papelbon said after his third save in as many days. "That's mind-boggling to me. I think that's a no-brainer [to want to leave to go to a contender]."
So you'd like to be pitching for a contender later this month?
"Of course, man," Papelbon said. "What kind of question is that?"
Papelbon is owed a minimum of $19.5 million through the 2015 season, and that number increases to $32.5 million through 2016 if he finishes 55 games next year or 100 games in 2014 and 2015.
Papelbon's get-me-the-heck-out-of-here postgame interview quickly took away any good tidings from an impressive win.
Roberto Hernandez resembled the pitcher who went to the All-Star Game 4 years ago. and both Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins hit home runs as the Phils rolled over Milwaukee.
It was the Phillies' third straight win over the first-place Brewers. The Phillies, who entered the series having lost nine of 10 (and 13 of 16), are in position to finish off a four-game sweep of the Brewers in the final game of their 10-game road trip this afternoon.
After losing five of the first six games of the journey through Miami, Pittsburgh and Milwaukee, the Phils can also break even on that trip, too.
The remarkable turnaround probably begins with an offense that was comatose for much of the last 2 weeks. For the fourth straight game, the Phillies scored in their first at-bat when Utley lined his eighth home run of the season over the rightfield fence.
The home run, which gave the Phillies a 1-0 lead, was the second in three games (and eight plate appearances) for Utley. Utley entered the series with one home run in his previous 93 plate appearances since June 14.
The Brewers struck back in the second inning and the game remained tied entering the sixth. With one on and one out, Utley's longtime doubleplay partner ended a home-run drought to put the Phillies in front.
Rollins teed off on a 2-1 curveball from Kyle Lohse and sent a two-out, two-run homer into the seats beyond the rightfield fence. Rollins' ninth home run of the season was his first in 30 games.
Rollins, who had eight homers in his first 57 games of the season, had gone 126 plate appearances without a home run before putting the Phillies in front.
It was the 23rd time in their careers that Rollins and Utley had homered in the same game.
The benefactor of those home runs yesterday was Hernandez, the embattled, bottom-of-the-rotation starter who did little to impress in the season's first 3 months. But Hernandez was plenty impressive against the hard-hitting, free-swinging Brewers.
Hernandez held Milwaukee to one run on three singles in a season-high eight innings. He retired the last 12 in a row and, going back to his two-out walk in the second, sent 19 of the final 21 batters he faced back to the dugout.
Surprisingly, Hernandez was pulled after that dominant run, and despite having thrown only 84 pitches in eight innings. Papelbon entered for the ninth.
But everything has come up roses since the Phillies arrived in Wisconsin: Papelbon picked up right where Hernandez left off, retiring each of the three Brewers batters he faced to clinch the Phils' third straight victory.
Papelbon has retired all nine batters he has faced in the series and said he's fine with taking the ball for a fourth straight game this afternoon, too. But he'd rather be on another team soon.
Even if he doesn't know which team that might be.
"I go day by day," Papelbon said. "Whatever happens, I cross that bridge when it . . . I don't have that crystal eight-ball."
Papelbon could be an intriguing pickup for a contender in need of a closer (such as Detroit, San Francisco, Baltimore and the Los Angeles Angels). He has postseason experience and is pitching well this year: a 1.24 ERA and 22-for-24 in save chances.
The Phillies also would be likely to pay down some of his salary - he's under contract for next year, too - to adhere to his wishes, find him a new home and hopefully get a prospect or two in return.