Walker sweats regardless of the situation, but he played an important role in the team's success this weekend. The bullpen went 2-0 with a 3.38 ERA as the Phillies reduced their magic number to win the National League East to six, with 14 games to play. They could cut into that number substantially Tuesday and Wednesday with a big three-game series against the Marlins at Land Shark Stadium in Miami.
Philadelphia scored four runs in five innings against Atlanta rookie right-hander Tommy Hanson to take a 4-1 lead, but the bullpen saved the day. Left-hander Cliff Lee pitched four innings, but only because of a one-hour, 51-minute rain delay. Lee wanted to continue. He said he has in the past, but there was little debating Phillies manager Charlie Manuel and pitching coach Rich Dubee once they made their decision.
The bullpen already had a busy weekend to that point.
J.A. Happ lasted three innings Friday because Manuel pulled him for precautionary reasons. Happ had missed his previous two starts because of a strained rib-cage muscle, and when Manuel thought Happ favored it in the bottom of the third inning, he removed him from the game. Happ said he was fine, and he said he will make his next start Thursday against the Marlins. But with the Phillies already without left-handers Scott Eyre (loose body in his left elbow), J.C. Romero (strained left forearm) and Jack Taschner (strained back), and right-handers Brett Myers (sore right shoulder) and Chan Ho Park (strained right hamstring), Manuel clearly was thinking about having healthy arms for the postseason
Pedro Martinez lasted three innings Saturday because he pulled a muscle on the right side of his neck while swinging at a curveball in the second inning. Martinez showed reporters Sunday that he still cannot turn his head completely to the right. He hopes it improves before his next start Friday against the Brewers at Miller Park.
"Friday?" Martinez said, sounding noncommittal at this point. "I think it's going to be great. It's the day before Saturday."
Right-hander Kyle Kendrick threw four scoreless innings in relief Friday in a 9-4 victory. Walker, Ryan Madson and Chad Durbin also pitched a combined two innings. Durbin, Sergio Escalona and Clay Condrey pitched five innings in Saturday's 6-4 loss.
Walker, Escalona, Condrey, Madson and Brad Lidge pitched six innings Sunday.
"We got some good work out of our bullpen," Manuel said. "They did a good job of matching up. They did good today. Walker did a [great] job today. He was out of gas when we took him out, though. He was hot. He was sweating.
"Madson looked good today. Lidge looked good."
Lidge looked good, despite the fact he allowed a run before notching his 31st save. He struck out two.
"I'm giving myself a higher leg kick," Lidge said. "It's helping me stay back and I'm getting a lot more on the ball. I got some swings and misses today that I really haven't had the entire season, and I think that's a big indication for me that my stuff has come all the way back and hitters aren't seeing the ball as well."
Lidge walked Brooks Conrad, but some of the pitches looked like strikes. Conrad then took second on defensive indifference and scored on Brian McCann's single to right.
"Obviously, if it's a one-run game, we'll pitch differently, but the way I feel right now and the way everyone is pitching in the bullpen, we're coming together at the right time," Lidge said. "I really feel like the last couple outings ... I'm hoping and I really do feel like I'm going to peak at the right time. I think our bullpen, too."