FOR PHILLIES fans genetically disposed to the notion that even in the best of times the dread undertoad is waiting to drown all hope, we are in the "Oh, no . . . " segment of the schedule.
Events with high potential for impeding the relentless march toward a November parade most likely merit upgrading to, "Oh, bleep . . ."
The Atlanta Braves are playing about as well as a team can play - scary-well, in fact - but have managed to cut just three games off what had swollen to an 9 1/2-game lead in the buried NL East. Charlie Manuel's squad is only 15-5 since Hunter Pence came out of the Southwest with a hitch in just about everything he does. But the biggest hitch is that it all works - the tilted, peekaboo stance, the choked-up grip, the fisherman-chased-by-alligator running gait. It's all good and Six-Pence (that's five tools plus hustle) has been an unreally real deal.
But the fickle fingers of fate will always try to scrawl a mustache on Ruben Amaro's Mona Lisa. And there have been plenty of oh-no and oh-bleep moments to provide almost daily concern.
Oh, bleep . . .
In an Aug. 12 Friday night start against the Nationals at home, Cole Hamels should have gone to the mound accompanied by six pallbearers for his dead arm. Both velocity and location were off. His previous Cy Young stuff was down to, "Sigh . . . " The official line was the "dead-arm period" nearly all pitchers go through as their innings-pitched count soars. But they sent Cole for an MRI, which revealed some inflammation in the rotator-cuff area. The ace lefthander missed his next start and is probably iffy for his start against the Marlins this week.
Oh, no . . .
Placido Polanco has been like a walking episode of "House" since he returned to the Phillies to solve a third-base dilemma. If the team's best pure hitter (when healthy) has not been treated for it by the medical staff, it probably doesn't exist. This time it was the dreaded sports hernia. Polly has dodged the surgery bullet for now and is being treated for what used to be called a plain vanilla abdominal strain. He could come off the disabled list today.
Oh, bleep . . .
Ryan Howard took an awkward swing at an outside pitch in a Phillies' 9-2 victory over the Diamondbacks last Wednesday. From the way he grimaced and winced, it rated an "Oh, bleep" with a bullet. Everybody was thinking oblique injury, which used to be a pulled rib cage or side muscle. Howard kept grimacing, but he went back into the game.
When it was pronounced a hand injury and "nothing serious," it was downgraded to an "Oh, no . . . " Turned out it was in the cramp or pinched nerve family and the Big Piece was back in the lineup for the Washington series.
Oooooooooooh, nooooooooo . . .
Catchers wear cups to protect their most personal places, but they are not always enough to absorb the shock from a groin-seeking foul ball or pitch in the dirt. Carlos Ruiz missed two games and was back to wreak havoc against the Nationals. At this stage, Chooch might be the player the Phillies can least afford to lose.
Oh, bleep . . .
For eight innings, Roy Halladay cut through the Arizona lineup like a samurai sword through a filet of Kobe beef. His pitch count was at 100. The Phils led 2-1. So Charlie Manuel let his ace-of-aces go out to reel in another complete game.
Oops. Twenty-two pitches later, two of them bad, the D-backs had a 3-2 lead and the Phils had no ninth-inning response. Charlie was returned to village-idiot status, of course, but if you say you would have gone to the bullpen at that point, you're lying.
Oh, no . . . Oh, bleep . . .
If Ryan Madson had to pass through a metal detector to get from the bullpen to the mound Friday night in another Nationals Park "home game," the security chief would have hollered, "Excuse me, sir, you forgot your stuff." The closer inherited a 4-2 lead, thanks to a pristine relief start by Kyle Kendrick for rain-delayed Roy Oswalt and stellar setup relief. The worst outing of Madson's career as closer was terminated at the six-run mark by Ryan Zimmerman's walkoff grand slam. Yikes. Another case of dead-arm, one hopes.
Oh, no . . . Oh, bleep . . . sequel.
Roy Oswalt threw his warmup pitches Friday night and when the waters had subsided after play was suspended before the bottom of the first, the elephants were being loaded onto the Ark, two-by-two. Oswalt did not pitch the bottom of the first after the 2-hour, 22-minute delay. Back acting up?
So, Oswalt got the ball Saturday night and pitched the finest game of his Phillies career: eight pristine, one-walk, nine-strikeout shutout innings. The ride was back on his fastball, the deception and bite on his secondaries. Go figure.
Late oh, no . . . bulletin
Jimmy Rollins left yesterday's rain-delayed loss after apparently tweaking something while fielding a grounder up the middle in the bottom of the second. The shortstop grounded out in the third, but did not return. And then there was Brad Lidge giving up a walkoff hit batsman for a Nationals victory, and the first road series loss for the Phillies since mid-June at Seattle.
Oh, bleep . . . MRI for J-Roll today. Stay bleeping tuned.