ATLANTA -- This is why baseball people can be superstitious.
Before Monday's victory over the Cubs at Citizens Bank Park, Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee had been answering a few questions about his pitching staff, when he mentioned how the team needs to find a way to get the ball to setup-man Chad Qualls and closer Jonathan Papelbon. Qualls had a 1.17 ERA in his first eight appearances, but a few hours later, he allowed a game-tying two-run home run in the eighth inning.
But that does not change the fact Papelbon and Qualls have been about the only two lock-down arms in the bullpen, though they saw some progress in the form of Antonio Bastardo, who tossed a scoreless inning Tuesday night in a 4-2 win over the Braves.
Left-hander Joe Savery has a 1.59 ERA in 5 2/3 innings, but the team has seen its share of struggles from Bastardo (4.15 ERA in 4 1/3 innings), Jose Contreras (7.36 ERA in 3 2/3 innings), David Herndon (4.70 ERA in 7 2/3 innings), Michael Schwimer (7.71 ERA in 2 1/3 innings) and Mike Stutes (6.35 ERA in 5 2/3 innings). Stutes and Herndon are on the disabled list.
Dubee lamented how they need their relievers to keep the game close even in losing situations. There have been times when the bullpen has turned a two- or three-run deficit into something larger, making a comeback nearly impossible.
"That's a concern," manager Charlie Manuel said, "but at the same time, those guys have to pitch for us to see what they can do, and we've got to have them get their work in to help us. We called them up. Of course we're going to use them. We have to use them, and we have to show confidence in them."
Bastardo proved to be one of the team's best relievers last season, but he has allowed 11 earned runs in 16 appearances since last September. His velocity has been down a bit, although it's improving. He also has lacked command, which was the case Monday, when he walked a batter.
"We've got to get him out there more," Manuel said. "We've got to get him sharp, whether it's one hitter, a full inning or two hitters. He's got to warm up, get him in the game and get him going. I think the same thing with Contreras, too. Those are two guys that we've got to start pitching more and making sure that we use them because both of them if we use them enough, that's what makes them good."