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07/30/08 12:29 AM ET

Myers masters Nats in Phillies' win

Righty back to fun-loving, competitve and dominant self

WASHINGTON -- The type of venom Brett Myers exhibited has to be classified as shocking from a starting pitcher about to be lifted.

"Check my numbers against this guy!" Myers shouted as manager Charlie Manuel trudged to the mound, having already decided to bring in reliever J.C. Romero. "I can get him. I know I can."

Myers admitted after Philadelphia's 2-1 win over Washington on Tuesday that he didn't actually know that Ryan Langerhans was an anemic 4-for-27 (.148) against him, but that didn't stop the right-hander from pleading his case. It never does, and Manuel did a double-take before glaring back at his confident starter, unsure how to react.

"I got him," Myers said, after a start in which he turned a giant corner. "He gave me that serious-mad look and looked irritated. I was just having fun. It was funny because it looked like he was speechless. I think it ticked him off."

The moment did anger Manuel, briefly, but soon the two were laughing and any tension was defused. Romero and Chad Durbin escaped the game's only mess and the Phillies remained one-half game behind the victorious Mets in the National League East.

"He was goofing off, like always," Manuel said. "In some ways, that's a good sign."

Manuel was anything but upset with Myers' performance on Tuesday, as the right-hander dazzled against a team that entered the game with a National League-worst .241 team batting average.

He was rarely challenged. He hit batters to open the third and fourth innings, but both were erased on double plays. A leadoff single by Jesus Flores in the fifth and a leadoff walk issued to Ryan Zimmerman in the seventh also proved harmless.

Perhaps Myers heard the footsteps of J.A. Happ, the young left-handed starter-turned-temporary-reliever called up from Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Tuesday.

Or maybe Myers is returning to the form for which the Phillies have patiently waited. Predominantly using fastballs, he rarely strayed from his game plan and induced an aggressive team to make outs quickly. He needed 88 pitches to get through seven-plus innings.

"He located his fastball to both sides of the plate and got strikes consistently," Manuel said. "He wasn't trying to strike people out. Tonight, he was a pitcher."

With his place in the starting rotation tenuous -- even after a mental rest spent in the Minors -- Myers turned in a dominating effort. More importantly, he had fun, something he couldn't say after a rough start in Texas on June 27 left him with a 3-9 record and a 5.84 ERA.

The Minors helped.

"I wasn't enjoying being at the field," Myers said. "I tried to come here as late as possible. I didn't want to see anybody. I was embarrassed. Everybody knows you can do better, and they run out of things to say to you -- or don't say anything. It's one of those things where they didn't give up on me, but they're kind of like, 'I don't know.' Even [pitching coach Rich] Dubee. I needed a mental refresher of why you want to get to the big leagues.

"I was so beat up [on June 27]. I wanted to sit at my locker and beat myself over the head with a hammer. I was done. When they offered me the opportunity to go the Minors, it wasn't a good opportunity, but I needed a change, to go down and figure out why I was so bad."

Myers said he found that reason. Helped by former pitching coaches Steve Schrenk and Rod Nichols, he was reminded of what he was before, instead of what he had become. He needed that.

On Tuesday, there was Myers enjoying himself on the field. He told Jimmy Rollins after the first inning that the shortstop shouldn't be afraid to mess with him if necessary, even in a big spot.

"Let's not be so serious," Myers said. "Don't be afraid to tell me that my breath really stinks in a big spot, just something that will make me go, 'What did you just say to me?'"

It seems like it's been forever since that Myers pitched for Philadelphia, but it's not too late for him to help these Phillies advance to the postseason. The hope in Spring Training was that he win 15 games, though Manuel was thinking more like 20.

Myers made two runs -- given to him by Chase Utley's first home run since July 7 -- stand up on Tuesday, and his teammates are ready for the brash, often inappropriate Myers to return. In fact, they've kind of missed him.

"That's the thing about being on a good team, guys like Brett become humorous," catcher Chris Coste said. "Guys like Brett and [the equally gregarious] Shane [Victorino] become tolerable on a good team. We'll all take the chin-up Myers over the disappointed and frustrated Brett."

Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.