Phillies bullpen providing boost

Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon. (Jeff Curry/USA TODAY Sports)

The Phillies entered play last night winners of nine of their last 13 games. Their improved play has come in part from the remarkable work of their relief corps.

Since June 3, the Phillies' bullpen leads the major leagues in just about every major statistical category: 1.09 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 7.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio, .168 opponents' batting average, .221 opponents' OBP, .231 slugging percentage and .452 OPS.

"One of the biggest things is they're throwing strikes," Sandberg said. "They've created their roles. They feel like they are comfortable. They are making the opponents earn what they get."

Two key contributors have come from a middle relief corps that was a trouble spot for most of the first 2 months.

After walking 20 batters in 26 games (25 2/3 innings) in April and May, Antonio Bastardo hadn't walked a batter in June entering last night. Bastardo had retired 27 of the 28 batters faced this month in six games (nine innings) while racking up 10 strikeouts in the process.

Righthander Justin De Fratus, meanwhile, hadn't allowed a run since returning from Triple A Lehigh Valley a month ago. In that 12-game span, De Fratus struck out 14 while walking two in 12 1/3 innings, holding opponents to a .205 batting average, .255 OBP and .505 OPS. He made it 13 games when he pitched last night, escaping a tricky eighth inning.

"I think last year paid dividends for them in getting the experience," Sandberg said. "Young guys, pitching in different situations and handling and experiencing that and then coming back this year - I think it's gone a long way."

On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21