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Phillies sparked by bullpen's strong performance

ST. LOUIS -- It has been no coincidence that the Phillies bullpen has been peaking in recent weeks right as the team has begun to gain ground on returning to .500.

Since June 3, the Phillies have the best bullpen ERA in the Majors (1.16), allowing five runs in 38 2/3 innings of work over that span. That production has given Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg options.

"First of all, it's important to use all of them, use the whole bullpen to keep them all fresh and ready to go and get their rest when due," Sandberg said. "When other guys are pitching well, they can pick each other up. The way I view it is they're doing it as a unit down there and they're doing it as a group."

The success has started with veteran closer Jonathan Papelbon. The five-time All-Star has a 1.53 ERA this season in 30 games, which is shaping up to be his best since he ended the 2009 season in Boston with a 1.85 ERA.

During the month of June, Papelbon has allowed one run in eight innings and has closed out four of five save opportunities.

"It helps to be doing well and have that trickle down, no question about it," Sandberg said. "Especially from a closer role and a veteran guy, that works hand in hand."

The Phillies bullpen entered Saturday allowing opponents to hit just .150 in the last 17 games, also a top mark among Major League bullpens during that span.

Sandberg said Papelbon has been a key influence in the bullpen, talking with relievers during the game and going through at-bats. That has begun to translate on the mound.

"He's also about helping the other players, I've learned that about him, especially this year," Sandberg said. "He likes to have them think they're a unit themselves down there as a group. Everybody do it together, everybody do their job and everyone be accountable for themselves."

Alex Halsted is an associate reporter for
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