BALTIMORE -- Chad Qualls needs to find a good groove quickly.
The Phillies hope he is close.
He threw two scoreless innings in Saturday's 6-4 loss to the Orioles in 12 innings at Camden Yards. He has not allowed a run in five of six appearances this month, but overall, he is 1-1 with a 4.88 ERA and carries a 6.61 ERA in 18 appearances since April 28. His struggles and injuries to right-handers Jose Contreras, Mike Stutes, David Herndon and Justin De Fratus have left the bullpen in rough shape. Five of the seven pitchers in the bullpen are 26 or younger. And Michael Schwimer, Jake Diekman, Joe Savery and B.J. Rosenberg have appeared in a combined 50 games.
"I've felt good for the past couple outings," Qualls said. "In my outing before this one [Saturday], I gave up some runs, but I got a lot of ground balls and there weren't that many balls hit hard. I know the outcome wasn't what I really wanted, but I feel like I threw the ball better than the score. I feel like I've been making strides."
Qualls has been getting his sinker up in the strike zone, but he hopes recent adjustments will keep the ball down.
Time will tell if those adjustments translate into improvements over the long haul, but there is no question the Phillies need Qualls to pitch better than he has. But at least Qualls left Saturday feeling encouraged, although he also had an embarrassing moment when he simply fell over after throwing over to first base on a pickoff attempt.
"[Brian] Schneider showed me the replay even before I could get in here," Qualls said. "I don't know. Apparently I just took my legs out from under me. I don't even know what happened. I've never done that before. It's not too embarrassing when there's only 40,000 people out there watching."