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How To Doc Saves the Day Breaking the Streak

Shane Victorino and Ryan Howard kept shaking their heads no Saturday at Citi Field.

No, they weren’t worried.

No, not even a little bit.

The Phillies had played with their everyday lineup just 15 times this season, and were 11-4 in those games. They were supremely confident once it happened a 16th time they would end their eight-game losing streak — their longest since 2000 — and get on track in time for Game 1 of the National League Division Series on Saturday at Citizens Bank Park.

The 16th time came Sunday in a 9-4 victory over the Mets, earning the Phillies their first victory since clinching the NL East on Sept. 17. Breathe.

The Phillies took a 3-0 lead in the first inning, when Jimmy Rollins singled, Hunter Pence hit a two-run home run to right-center field and Howard scored on a sacrifice fly by Raul Ibanez. Manuel had instituted a new-look lineup, with Utley moving up to second, Pence moving up to third and Victorino moving down to fifth.

So far, so good.

The Phillies scored a run in both the second and third innings to take a 5-0 lead. They added four more in the fourth to make it 9-0. It was the most the Phillies had scored since scoring nine runs on Sept. 17, which also was the last time they had their everyday lineup on the field.

Roy Halladay took care of the rest. He allowed four hits and one walk and struck out three in six scoreless innings to improve to 19-6 with a 2.35 ERA.

But the game didn’t go completely smoothly. Antonio Bastardo continued to struggle, even after the Phillies said they learned he had been tipping his pitches recently. Bastardo allowed three hits, three runs, two walks and one home run in just one-third of an inning.

Bastardo has allowed 16 of the last 27 batters he has faced to reach base. In his last seven appearances, he has allowed nine hits, nine runs, seven walks and two home runs in 3 2/3 innings.

It might not be such a cause for concern, except Bastardo could be the only left-hander in the bullpen in the postseason. If he isn’t throwing well, the Phillies’ only other left-handed relief option would be Joe Savery, who has made just two appearances in the big leagues.

Bastardo said he thinks he can find his control, but it depends on how many times he can pitch in the season’s final three games.

Another concern might be keeping Howard healthy. John Mayberry Jr. replaced him as a pinch-runner in the fourth inning because Howard started feeling some soreness in his left heel. Howard has missed time recently because of bursitis in his left ankle. He also has soreness in his right big toe, which he aggravated sliding into the wall making a catch on Saturday. He was not running well during his two times on base on Sunday.

Howard said he has every intention of playing this week in Atlanta because he needs at-bats to get ready for the playoffs. He said he would have remained in the game if it were the postseason.

The Phillies have three more games to solve Bastardo’s problems, if that is possible. They can keep an eye on Howard, too. But on Sunday, at least, they got the offense going again. That was good news, and a huge relief.

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