WASHINGTON -- It could very well be a mere coincidence but, in the two games since sending two All-Star outfielders to contenders out West, the Phillies are playing some pretty good baseball.
"We've got some life to us and we're having fun," manager Charlie Manuel said after Wednesday's 3-2 win against the Nationals. "We've got some guys trying to really show something. Hopefully we can get better."
Wednesday's victory was Philadelphia's second straight against Washington, the National League East's first-place club that entered the series with baseball's best record. The win ensured the Phillies (47-57) the series and a chance to sweep the Nats (61-42) on Thursday night.
"There's still season left and we've got to go out and play," said starting pitcher Vance Worley, who improved to 6-6. "Nothing really changes. The goal is still the same."
On Wednesday, the Phillies won with the long ball, a solid starting pitching performance and good work from their bullpen.
Jimmy Rollins hit solo homers in the third and fifth innings, bringing his home run total for the series to three. Newcomer Nate Schierholtz went back-to-back with the Phillies' veteran shortstop in the fifth for what would turn out to be the game-winning blast.
Worley settled down after the first couple innings and put together a good outing. Despite not striking out a single batter, the right-hander allowed just two unearned runs -- both in the first inning -- on six hits over seven innings.
"I don't think that's ever happened," Worley said of not recording a strikeout. "Tonight, it seemed like every time I got ahead in the count, I couldn't put a guy away. If they wanna get out earlier in the [count], that's fine with me. I'd much rather get swings on the first couple pitches."
"He gave us all pitches to hit," Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche said. "We got some good pitches to hit, whether he was leaving them out over the plate or leaving them up in the zone. Give him credit. We didn't do anything with it, and he kept pounding the zone."
It didn't take long for Schierholtz, acquired Tuesday in the Hunter Pence deal with the Giants, to make an impact. After joining the team earlier in the day, Schierholtz went 2-for-5 with the crucial home run. He also made a nice sliding catch in right field in the eighth inning.
He said afterward that it was nice to go out and contribute right away.
"It was exciting," Schierholtz said. "For one day, it's been a great group of guys. Everyone's welcomed me and I feel at home. It's great to be here."
The Phillies' other corner outfielder, Domonic Brown, contributed in his first Major League start of 2012. Brown, once regarded as the organization's top prospect, spent parts of each of the last two seasons with the Phillies but started 2012 with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He was promoted Tuesday when Pence was traded to the Giants and Shane Victorino went to the Dodgers.
With the Nationals threatening to add to an early 2-0 lead, Brown showed off his strong left arm. He nailed Nats starting pitcher Edwin Jackson at home plate with a perfect throw to catcher Erik Kratz to end the second inning.
Worley had a good vantage point of the stellar throw.
"It came in hot," Worley said with a big smile. "I liked it."
Helping matters, Philadelphia's once-maligned bullpen is on a nice roll. In the previous 11 games entering Wednesday, the bullpen combined for a National League-leading 1.33 ERA and held the opposition to a .186 average.
And on cue, when Worley (6-6, 3.63 ERA) exited on Wednesday, the bullpen held down the fort in the eighth inning. Manuel was able to mix and match left-handers Antonio Bastardo and Jeremy Horst with right-hander Josh Lindblom, who made his Phillies debut. The trio got through the inning with just a hit against them to set the stage for closer Jonathan Papelbon, who earned his 23rd save in 26 chances.
"I think we still have to get some experience and everything, but I think if we can organize and handle it right, where we definitely match up till we get to Papelbon, I think that might be the way to go right now," Manuel said. "[The bullpen's] better than it was."
Jake Kaplan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.