Phils get 'Happy,' lead East by 1 1/2
Philly's magic number to clinch playoff spot down to four
MIAMI -- Pedro Feliz, or "Pete Happy" as he's known around the Phillies' clubhouse, spread joy on Sunday.Despite not starting, Feliz delivered with his bat and glove in a 5-2 win at Dolphin Stadium, giving the Phillies their first series victory over the Marlins this season and a 1 1/2-game cushion on the Mets in the National League East. Philadelphia also lowered its magic number to clinch a playoff spot to four. In a season of extremes, the Phillies are peaking at the right time, while their playoff contenders have stepped aside. On Sunday, an injury to Greg Dobbs proved fortunate for the Phils. "Happy" replaced Dobbs with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh, after Dobbs felt a cramp in his right calf while snaring Josh Willingham's scorcher down the line. Unable to make a throw, Dobbs held the ball. Willingham reached first and a run scored, vaulting Florida within a run. Dobbs couldn't continue. "It grabbed on me pretty good," Dobbs said. "I couldn't push off on my right leg to get something on the throw. I didn't want to risk sailing the throw or doing something silly. I just ate it. Petey came in and closed the door for us, all is well." Clay Condrey, one of the unheralded members of an efficient bullpen, fell behind, 2-0, on Cody Ross, but got him to ground to Feliz, who went to second for the inning-ending force play. When manager Charlie Manuel brought both players in, he pondered inserting Condrey in the seventh spot of the order, which would've had the pitcher hitting second in the top of the eighth. With Shane Victorino scheduled to lead off, that could've meant a sacrifice situation. Instead, he left Feliz in the seventh spot. Victorino singled. Manuel put on the sacrifice, but took it off after reliever Joe Nelson threw a ball. Genius. Feliz homered. "Lucky swing," Feliz said. "I try to do my best every time I go in there, but especially in those moments, that's when you want to do it. That's the time when you need it. I hope I can keep doing it." "Feliz's home run definitely turned the momentum in the game," Manuel said. "They were right there at us, threatening, and a two-run homer became a huge hit." Manuel and the Phillies can't do anything wrong this month. Chase Utley joined the party with a third-inning homer, his first since Aug. 22, a span of 125 plate appearances. During that span, he had recorded just five extra-base hits. With the game tight, Feliz came through. Condrey recorded what closer Brad Lidge called "the biggest out of the game." Ryan Madson worked a spotless eighth inning a day after working out of a jam. Then Lidge, Mr. Automatic, secured the ninth, nailing down his 40th save in as many chances and 43rd straight dating to last season. The right-hander is the only perfect closer this year and is a big reason the Phillies are 75-0 in '08 when leading after eight innings. Good timing? "Our timing is tremendous right now, whether it's a guy getting a cramp in his calf or what," Lidge said. "We still realize that if we start looking ahead to the postseason, we're going to be trouble. We have to keep doing what we're doing, which is to keep putting urgency on every game." With six games to go and a magic number of four to guarantee a ticket to the playoffs, the players know they're aren't in yet. Just close. "We still have to play," said Jamie Moyer, who worked the first six innings and improved to 11-1 against Florida in 12 career starts. "With six games to go, we still have to play good baseball, pitch well, swing the bats and play good defense.
"We'll see where that leads us. It's nice to go into the last week of the season ahead. Hopefully we can build off that."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.