PHILADELPHIA -- Even if a playoff berth remains a long shot, the Phillies are making things interesting.
They battled back from an early three-run deficit to beat the Rockies, 7-4, on Sunday night to sweep the doubleheader and three-game series. Winners of 15 of their last 21 games and two games under .500 for the first time since June 8, they sit six games behind the Cardinals, who occupy the second National League Wild Card spot.
Though Sunday's pair of victories propelled the Phillies a half-game ahead of the D-backs and into a tie with the Brewers, the Dodgers and Pirates still remain between them and the Cardinals. With its next 10 games against clubs with inferior records, the time is now for Philadelphia.
"I think for a lot of the season, many of the teams have counted us out," Jonathan Papelbon said. "For a while there we were playing 'spoiler', and then 'spoiler' kind of dominoed into, 'Now we have a shot.' I think we have to get to .500 first. We need to worry about ourselves, man. I'm not a scoreboard watcher. I never have been. We have to go out there and do what we're capable of doing and that's it really. That's kind of what it boils down to."
A month ago, the Phillies were 10 games under .500 and 12 games back of the second Wild Card. Two months ago, at the All-Star break, they were 13 games under .500 and 10 games out of the running. But behind more consistent starting pitching, a lineup that has regularly featured Chase Utley and Ryan Howard and a young bullpen that has stepped up after early-season struggles, Philadelphia has posted a 32-21 since that time.
"I'm going with the cliche 'one game at a time'," Papelbon said. "And I know it is a cliche, but I think everybody here is just trying to come to work every day and leave everything out on the field one day at a time."
After winning, 3-2, in walk-off fashion in Sunday's afternoon game, the Phillies won the evening contest largely because their offense compiled 14 hits and the relief corp pitched five shutout innings, allowing just one hit.
"Those guys are the bridge to me," Papelbon said of his fellow relievers, none of whom are older than 26. "I don't think we would be we be where we're at right now or be as successful without those young guys in the bullpen who have stepped it up, who have come up here and said, 'Here's what I have.'"
Trailing 4-1 after three innings on Sunday, the Phillies came within one on a two-run double from Howard. They tied the game and then took the lead in the sixth with the help of a former Rockie, a player gutting it out through an injury and another player just back from a five-week stint on the disabled list.
Leading off the frame, Ty Wigginton, who spent 2011 with Colorado, hit a first-pitch home run that knotted the score. After Michael Martinez notched his second single of the day, Charlie Manuel inserted Carlos Ruiz as a pinch-hitter. In Ruiz's first at-bat since Aug. 2 -- until Friday, he was on the disabled list with plantar fasciitis in his left foot -- he singled to put runners on the corners with one out. Kevin Frandsen, playing through a stress fracture in his left fibula, drove in Martinez with a pinch-hit infield single to put the Phillies ahead.
Philadelphia added insurance runs in the seventh on RBI singles from Ruiz and Nate Schierholtz.
The two-run sixth bailed out starter Tyler Cloyd, who experienced the worst of his three Major League outings, exiting after just four innings. The right-hander gave up four runs, all in the third inning, on eight hits.
Cloyd stranded runners in scoring position in the first and second but couldn't escape trouble in the third. Struggling with his change-up and getting ahead of hitters, he gave up five hits in the frame, highlighted by a long three-run home run by Chris Nelson.
The middle-inning offense also helped rookie reliever B.J. Rosenberg, who pitched a spotless sixth, earn his first Major League win. Fellow rookies Justin De Fratus and Phillipe Aumont also pitched scoreless innings. Josh Lindblom issued two walks in the seventh, but with two outs, Jake Diekman induced a groundout from Josh Rutledge to end the threat.
Papelbon needed just 12 pitches to records his 32nd save in 36 chances.
"Just keep winning," Manuel said. "See how many we can win. Just keep going."
Next up: the last-place Miami Marlins.
Jake Kaplan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.