But a terrible June followed by an incredible July makes one wonder: Has he figured out who these Phillies are?
"I think we might be better than we've been playing," Manuel said. "We've been getting some breaks, but at the same time, we've been playing good."
They have. The Phils entered Wednesday's series finale leading the National League in runs (95), home runs (24), walks (74), on-base percentage (.373), slugging percentage (.489), ERA (2.15) and opponents' batting average (.198) since they lost to the Braves at Turner Field on July 2.
The combination of great hitting and pitching has helped the Phillies to a 53-39 mark and a comfortable lead in the National League East.
"Our overall record has to indicate that we're this good," Greg Dobbs said. "Obviously, or we wouldn't be where we're at. The numbers are the numbers. It's baseball. You go through swings like that. Every team gets really hot. Every team gets cold. The quicker you come out of those cold spells, the better you're going to be."
The Phillies had their winning streak snapped Wednesday mostly because of pitching. Jamie Moyer cruised through the third inning before things got rocky in the fourth. He allowed five consecutive hits to Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, Milton Bradley, Alfonso Soriano and Jeff Baker as the Cubs scored four runs to take a 4-0 lead.
Moyer allowed another run in the fifth to make it 5-0.
In five innings, Moyer allowed eight hits, five runs (four earned) and three walks. He struck out three.
"Big hits, little hits," said Moyer, who had his personal five-game winning streak snapped. "We've been doing it lately. String them together and you score runs."
Moyer is 1-2 with a 6.00 ERA in July and 5-6 with a 5.65 ERA in 19 starts this season. He has the third-highest ERA in the Majors. Only St. Louis' Todd Wellemeyer (5.68 ERA) and Florida's Ricky Nolasco (5.77 ERA) are higher.
The Phillies scored a run in the fifth and two in the sixth to make it 5-3. Chad Durbin allowed three runs in the seventh to make it 8-3, but Philadelphia scored two more in the bottom of the inning to cut the lead to 8-5.
The Phils had chances to get closer, but they couldn't come up with the big hit. They left 11 runners on base, including leaving the bases loaded in the eighth.
But closer Brad Lidge allowed two hits, two runs and two walks in the ninth. He is 0-4 with a 7.20 ERA and 19 saves this season and 0-1 with a 7.00 ERA and six saves since he returned from the disabled list with an injured right knee last month. In nine innings since he returned from the DL, he has allowed nine hits, two runs and nine walks. He has struck out 11 and hit two batters. Opponents have hit .290 against him.
His continued inconsistency is a concern.
"Physically, I feel fine," Lidge said. "My release point and control aren't great right now. I'm not sure why. It's one of those things ... you're getting the job done, but you're not happy with how you're throwing. That's kind of how I feel right now."
Manuel is trying to keep the struggles of Moyer and Lidge in perspective. Moyer threw seven shutout innings against the Marlins last week in Florida. He held the Mets to just one run in 6 1/3 innings on July 4. Lidge is 6-for-6 in save opportunities since he returned from the DL.
Lidge thinks it will come for him like it has come recently for the rest of the team.
"Ultimately, I think we're finally putting things together," Shane Victorino said. "They're going to add pieces, I'm sure. But for the most part, if we play like we do now, I think we've got a legitimate shot at doing some things."