Phillies 'pen back on track after rough first half

Phillies 'pen back on track after rough first half

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies' bullpen was one of the culprits of the club's disappointing first half of the season. But over the last few weeks, the relief corps has been throwing up a lot of zeros on the scoreboard.

Since July 20, a span of 17 games, Philadelphia's 'pen has allowed just seven earned runs over 43 1/3 innings, good for a 1.45 ERA, which ranks second in the National League during that span. Its combined .179 opponents' batting average during that time is the best in the NL.

"That's a good sign," manager Charlie Manuel said before Wednesday's series finale against the Braves. "That's definitely a good sign. We do have some good arms in that bullpen. ... We've got some talent. And they'll get better the more they pitch, of course."

Despite some struggles this season, left-hander Antonio Bastardo (2-3, 4.79) has not allowed a run in nine of his last 10 appearances. Rookies Jeremy Horst (0-0, 1.50 in 13 games) and Michael Schwimer (2-1, 3.64 in 30 games) have also been effective. Schwimer entered Wednesday having given up only two hits in the last 26 at-bats against him.

"I think Horst has been doing very good. He's been really consistent," Manuel said. "Schwimer's been doing fine. How we'll tell is the bigger situations they get in and how consistent they can be. That tells a lot. I think that'll tell you how much work that they're going to need going forward, too."

For the season, the bullpen's 4.33 ERA ranks 25th in the Major Leagues.