Squint a little, and you can see reasons for hope in the Phillies' play over the last few days. But for two extra-inning losses, they could be riding a five-game winning streak: the young (Cole Hamels) and the old (Jamie Moyer) are having their days in the rotation, and Jon Lieber was all that and a box of his favorite donuts in his first start of the year; Chase Utley and Ryan Howard finally showed signs of coming around in Cincinnati this weekend; and even the bullpen--on-borrowed-time closer Tom Gordon aside--has looked better since Brett Myers was sent as a reinforcement.
Still five games under .500 and 5.5 out of first, the best you can say is that the Phils have begun to dig themselves out of the big early hole created by bad relief pitching, bad managing and a bit of bad luck. The next week or so, though, could do a lot to tell the tale of whether these guys are really going to merit close interest through the summer. Monday begins a stretch of seven games at home, one against Houston and three each against the Nationals and Marlins.
The starting pitchers they are likely to face in the first four of those games have a combined 10 career wins. Chris Sampson, a 28 year-old journeyman righthander set to oppose Adam Eaton Monday, has 4; Nationals Jason Bergmann (2) and Shawn Hill (3) follow. Thursday's probably starter, Matt Chico, has one. Assuming this weekend's great weather holds, we're looking at possible big crowds, against shaky teams sending young pitchers to the bump. This would seem to be a good time for the Phillies to improve on that 1-5 home record, and pay back the fans so desperate to love this club.