PHILADELPHIA -- White towels violently waved in anything but surrender, instead serving as a rallying cool breeze on an 85-degree September evening. In time, the raucous hollering at Citizens Bank Park that punctuated the early innings of Philadelphia's 6-1 nightcap win over Milwaukee transitioned gradually to a persistent buzz, if for no reason than the realization that nothing had yet been won. It just seemed that way in the afterglow of a four-game sweep Sunday night that thrust the Phillies into a tie with the Brewers atop the National League Wild Card standings and one game behind the Mets in the NL East race. The day-night doubleheader sweep served as the exclamation point.
"I believe in momentum," manager Charlie Manuel said. "Attitude, charisma, whatever you want to call it. We're playing well." In a convenient coincidence, the Brewers are playing terribly, having dropped 10 of 13 games to make the tie possible. Milwaukee entered Philadelphia leading the Wild Card by four games, but that lead evaporated over the muggy weekend. "This series was a complete and total disaster," said Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun, part of an offense that has batted .211 in September. "We couldn't have played any worse. They couldn't have played any better. It's done and you can't go back and change anything or feel bad for ourselves, because no one is going to feel sorry for us. It can only go in one direction from here. It can't get any worse." Despite trailing in two races, the Phillies are familiar with a late-season push. They went 13-4 down the stretch last season, including a sweep of New York that started the Mets' freefall to a historic collapse. In Milwaukee's case, Philadelphia may have pushed a struggling team team further to the pavement. Brett Myers served as the bullpen bully in Sunday's nightcap, and also continued in his more familiar role as one of this season's best second-half pitchers. Not only was the righty unaffected by starting on short rest, but he benefited from it. Efficient and productive, Myers used a litany of first-pitch strikes, systematically dismantling an impatient lineup in going the distance. He threw 95 pitches and allowed just two hits. Seventeen of 29 batters saw first-pitch strikes, and 16 were retired in three or fewer pitches. In his dominance, Myers became the first Phillies pitcher to toss a complete game with 95 or fewer pitches since Curt Schilling threw 94 on Aug. 10, 1998. The game lasted two hours, 25 minutes, and Myers' ERA since his return fell to 1.80. He's gone 7-2 in that span.
"They were aggressive," said Myers, who lowered his ERA to 4.08 overall. "Not only that, I wasn't looking for the strikeouts that I'm accustomed to looking for. I wasn't trying to punch 'em out with stuff, because I knew I needed to keep my pitch count down. I didn't try to overpower guys. On three days' rest, it's difficult to give every pitch max effort."
Myers spread out his energy, keying a three-run second with a two-out RBI single. Jeff Suppan intentionally walked Chris Coste to get to Myers, and he deposited a single to right, scoring a run. Jimmy Rollins cashed in two more with a single.
Myers scored the second run on Rollins' hit by barely beating Jason Kendall's tag.
"[Running the bases] didn't take anything out of me," he said. "We're supposed to be well-conditioned athletes."
"I made it didn't I?" Myers said, with a laugh.
Myers made it look easy.
"He got it back," outfielder Jayson Werth said. "Whatever it is that makes Brett good, he found it. When he came back up, you could see it was a different guy. He's the Brett of old. That's the guy we got back."
The Phillies, too, are back.
There was much joking going on in a relaxed clubhouse after the game, as players gathered to watched the final inning of Carlos Zambrano's no-hitter for the Cubs, which ironically was being played in Miller Park.
The feeling of zeroing in on another postseason, after being four games out a few days earlier was palpable, though no one said it directly.
"We haven't played the way we're capable," outfielder Shane Victorino said. "We've been inconsistent all year. For us to be in the situation we're in is fortunate. There is better baseball still to be played."
Werth said it even better.
"The pieces of the puzzle are starting to connect," he said.
|"He got it back. Whatever it is that makes Brett good, he found it. When he came back up, you could see it was a different guy. He's the Brett of old. That's the guy we got back."|
|-- Jayson Werth, on Brett Myers|
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.