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THEY ARE the overmatched underdogs of a bar fight. A messy, daily bar fight. You break a chair over them, they poke both fingers into your eyes. You smash a bottle over their heads, even pull out a big weapon, they spray you in the eyes with spritzer, do a little Curly dance, and the next thing you know, you’ve been wrapped inside a roll of tape.

The Fightin’ Phils. It is a name that finally fits the team, after a generation of baseball in which they took care of opposing teams, at least during the regular season, the way Mike Tyson once took care of Trevor Berbick, Tyrell Biggs, Michael Spinks.

These Fightin’ Phils have no knockout punch. They simply jab you to death or even with annoying regularity pants you. There are no three run bombs to take care of baserunning blunders or baserunning indifference. cheap nfl jerseys No unyielding offense to cover for throwing to the wrong base or breaking the wrong way on a well hit ball. Only once in 32 games has a starter pitched through the eighth inning to hide or replenish an inefficient or insufficient bullpen, the way it worked when Lee followed Halladay and Oswalt followed Hamels.

Rollins, Utley, Victorino, Pence, the Four Aces they’re retired or in another team’s uniform, playing out their remaining days in various roles for legitimate contenders, leaving behind just two remnants, two former All Stars who are also now in supporting roles for a team that lives through desperation rather than swagger.

Fourteen times this season, a Phillies game has ended with one team scoring just one more run than the other.

Eleven times, that team has been them.

They are 7 5 against the two teams ahead of them in the National League standings, the Mets and Nationals.

They have been outscored in those games by 20 runs.

“People ask me what style of manager I am,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin was saying one day this spring. “Well, I adapt the style to what kind of team I have. You have a bunch of veterans who know how to play and do those things properly, well, then you kind of sit back and you can even let them go through the motions in the drills because you know they know what they’re doing. But when you’re trying to groom players to become the type of player that we’re looking for, it’s a lot easier to mold them when they’re young, and they’re trying to make an impression, and they don’t want to screw up, and they’ll listen.”

The heroes of Sunday’s 6 5 victory over Miami were Emmanuel Burriss, Tyler Goeddel and Andres Blanco each a discard from a previous organization. They won on Saturday after Maikel Franco, their most bonafide slugger, hit a tailor made, inning ending, rally killing doubleplay ball that was inexplicably dropped by Marlins first baseman Chris Johnson.

“I won’t say it’s easier,” Mackanin said back when he was running this team through college like drills this spring. “Because I certainly would love to have the 2009 Phillies. Or the 2011 Phillies, where we won 102 games. But then it becomes more important how you handle the players rather than how you run through drills.”

And yet those drills have been an integral piece to scoring the few runs they have this season. On Sunday, Freddy Galvis busted it down to first on a grounder to short, turning a potential infield out into a single, a throwing error, and two runs scored, triggering their sixth inning rally from three runs down. After his 12 pitch at bat ended with a rally starting double Saturday night, Blanco said this: “I told myself, ‘Don’t give up, keep battling. See it, fight . . . put the ball in play.’ ”

Again, a small sample size, but Matt Klentak’s mentality of assembling so many bullpen arms to take advantage of the law of averages already has separated him from the struggles of his predecessors. If Ruben Amaro Jr. and Ed Wade shared one thing in common as general manager, it was that bullpen building was their Rubik’s Cube. Romero (81 games).

Yes, Jeanmar Gomez has been a revelation thus far. But the walkup to that inning has been dumbfounding ly delightful as well. Somehow, without a bona fide fireballer, Phillies relievers are averaging more than a strikeout per inning.

It can’t last, you keep telling yourself. Once the bullies free themselves from the tape, it’s going to get ugly. That’s how it felt at the end of last week, after they had dropped three of four to the Cardinals and Gomez blew his first save.

But then they won two more of those one run jobs over the weekend, against a team that had won 11 of its previous 12. And when Sunday’s game ended with that deep fly ball to leftfield, well . . .

 

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