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PHI@MIL: Howard jacks a solo blast in the sixth

MILWAUKEE -- It would be easy to say the Phillies sent a message to the rest of the National League this week.

They went 6-1 against Atlanta and Milwaukee, two of the league's top teams. But the Phillies never looked at this past week as a time to make a statement. They are not a young team trying to prove themselves. They have been to the postseason each of the previous four seasons. They are not trying to let everybody know who they are. Everybody knows who they are.

Everybody knows they are good.

So this week didn't buoy their spirits heading into the final weeks of the season. Their focus remains the same.

"When playoff time rolls around, you throw all of this out the door," Phils center fielder Shane Victorino said following Sunday's 3-2 loss to the Brewers at Miller Park. "Arguably, you could have said we were the best team going into the postseason last year. Everyone expected us to be there and we didn't get there. San Francisco went on and won the World Series. So it was a test, but I don't think it's going to dictate what happens in October."

The Phillies' magic number to clinch a postseason berth is two. Their magic number to clinch their fifth consecutive National League East title is six, and their magic number to clinch home-field advantage throughout the postseason is seven.

"It's good to know we can go out there ... missing very big parts," Victorino said. "We didn't start Ryan [Howard], Jimmy [Rollins] is not in the lineup, Chase [Utley is out]. So if you get all of those guys back, you're that much better. This series, taking three out of four, it's nice. But it's not what's going to happen down the road. It's a totally different series then."

That might have been one of the most encouraging things to happen against Milwaukee. The Phillies played four games without Utley, who is recovering from a concussion in Philadelphia, and Rollins, who played just one inning in the field because of a strained right groin. Howard started just twice because of bursitis in his left Achilles.

They also humbled a team that opened the series 50-19 at home.

The Phils, whose 45-27 road record is the best in baseball, carried a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the seventh when Vance Worley ran into some trouble. He allowed back-to-back two-out doubles to Corey Hart and Nyjer Morgan to tie the game. Ryan Braun followed with a single to right to score Morgan and make it 3-2.

Worley thought he had Braun called out on strikes on a 1-2 pitch, but home-plate umpire Gerry Davis called it a ball.

Worley shrugged afterward. He said the next pitch that Braun hit for a single frustrated him more.

"You're not going to get calls every time," he said. "That's just something you have to deal with and you have to get the guy out."

The Phillies had won 14 consecutive Worley starts until Sunday. He allowed eight hits, three runs and one walk and struck out seven in 6 2/3 innings to suffer his first loss since May 29 against the Mets at Citi Field.

"Different," Worley said, when asked how it felt. "But that's part of the game. I'm not going to be perfect. I'm not going to win every game. I can't just expect it."

The Phillies hopped a plane to Houston at 94-48, which puts them on pace to win 106 games. That would be the sixth-most victories in the NL since the first World Series in 1903. Their .657 winning percentage is on pace for 18th-best in league history, although it would be the third-best since 1953.

The Phils are good. They didn't need this past week to prove it. They're only looking to play like this in October.

"They're definitely going to be there, so we hope we get an opportunity to play against them again," Braun said. "They're a good team, and it starts with their phenomenal starting pitching. It was nice to go out there and at least get one win off them today. We played against them earlier in the year in Philly and took the series from them there, so we're not going to lack confidence by any means. We understand it's going to be a challenge." Comments