The Phillies went an ugly 4-14 between June 12 and July 2. Near the end of June, manager Charlie Manuel held a team meeting and told the team they weren’t playing as well as they are capable of playing. They are now. They go into the All-Star break on a monster tear, winners of five in a row and nine of their last ten. They have outscored their opponents 66-27 in their last ten games.

The Phillies are getting fantastic and timely hitting and great pitching from a large number of sources. They’ve gotten their All-Star left fielder back from the DL. They’ve seemingly gotten their all-everything shortstop back from wherever he had been for most of the first half of the year.

They sure look like a team with a good chance to make another run deep into the playoffs.

The three biggest issues facing the team as they head to the second half of the season as I see them are these: First, and most importantly, the starting pitching has been very good recently but is going to need an upgrade. Second, Brad Lidge just isn’t right. He pitches badly regularly. Sometimes it costs the Phillies are sometimes it doesn’t. And finally, the catching situation just isn’t very good. The Phillies surely have enough hitting on the team to overcome it, but they’ve let Chris Coste go and right now it’s looking like Carlos Ruiz and Paul Bako are going to carry the load the rest of the way. Neither of them is hitting much at all.

The Phillies head to the All-Star break at 48-38 after sweeping the Pittsburgh Pirates in a three-game set. They’ve won five in a row and are in first place in the NL East. They’re four games ahead of the second-place Marlins and six ahead of the third-place Braves. The Mets are 6 1/2 back.

The Phillies won game one 3-2 behind a great start by Blanton. Blanton gave up a solo homer to Garrett Jones in the top of the first. Werth hit a two-run double in the bottom of the third and that was it for the scoring. Blanton exited with one out in the eighth win a man on second, but Romero came in and set the Pirates down. After Romero got the first out of the ninth, Lidge came in and gave up a two-out homer to Brandon Moss before striking out Delwyn Young to end the game.

The Phillies won game two in nearly impossible fashion. Down 7-3 going into the bottom of the ninth, Stairs led off the frame with a home run. Howard delivered a one-out grand slam that tied the score at 7-7. Ibanez followed with a double then Werth was walked to set up the double-play. Feliz reached on an infield single to load the bases and Bako singled to left to give the Phils an 8-7 win. Hamels got roughed up in the game, giving up five runs in the first two innings. A weak top of the seventh from Durbin in which he gave up a hit and two walks and got just one out led to two more Pittsburgh runs.

The Phils got a grand slam from Feliz in a five-run first inning and another great start from Happ as they won game three 5-2.

More good pitching from the Phillies in the series. They threw 27 innings over three games with a 3.67 ERA and a 1.07 ratio. They gave up just 23 hits and six walks over 27 innings. They did allow six home runs in the three games, however, which is too many.

The starting pitching was better than the pen in the set. Blanton and Happ both made very good starts with Hamels hit hard in game two. As a group they threw to a 3.10 ERA with an 0.89 ratio in 20 1/3 innings. They allowed four home runs, three of which were given up by Hamels, but walked just three.

Blanton started game one and allowed a run over 7 1/3 innings on four hits and a walk. His ERA was 7.11 after his start against the Reds on May 21. Since then he’s allowed more than three runs in a start once in nine outings and has brought his ERA down to 4.44.

Hamels struggled in game two. He allowed five runs over six innings on seven hits. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out seven. He allowed three home runs in the first two innings. After the first two innings he allowed just two hits, both doubles, over the next four frames. Hamels goes into the break with an ugly 4.87 ERA. He has a 7.06 ERA over his last four starts. He isn’t walking anyone, just four walks over 21 2/3 innings in his last four starts, so his ratio in those outings is a less terrible 1.43.

Happ went seven innings in game three, allowing a single run on four hits and two walks. He has just been awesome in the first half of the season. He lowered his ERA on the year to 2.90 with yesterday’s outing and has thrown to a 1.17 ratio. He hasn’t allowed more than three runs in a start in any of his last five outings. His walk rate is too high for the season, but over his last four outings he’s gone 30 innings and walked four hitters. That’s 1.2 per nine innings.

The numbers for the pen weren’t good for the series. 5.40 ERA with a 1.65 ratio over 6 2/3 innings. Lidge gave up a run in game one. Durbin pitched badly in game two and was charged with two runs. Romero gave up a home run late in game three.

Romero entered game one in the top of the eighth with one out and a man on second, the Phillies up 3-1. He got two ground balls to leave the runner stranded. He came back to start the ninth and got lefty Adam LaRoche for the first out before Lidge came in to pitch to righty Andy LaRoche.

Romero also pitched the ninth inning yesterday with the Phils up 5-2. He gave up a leadoff homer to lefty Garrett Jones and got the next three. It’s the only run Romero has given up over his last seven appearances. He rarely gives up home runs to lefties — he came into the game having given up 11 against them for his career. They had slugged .290 against him for his career.

Eyre entered game one with one in the top of the seventh, the bases loaded and the Phils down 5-3 to pitch to Garrett Jones. He walked Jones. 6-3. Then he got Ryan Doumit to hit what should have been a home-to-first double-play ball to third, but Dobbs booted it. Dobbs recovered in time to get one out at first, but another run scored to make it 7-3. Eyre got the next batter to pop to Utley to end the frame.

He came back to pitch the eighth inning and gave up a one-out triple to Andy LaRoche. He kept Pittsburgh off the board, though, getting the next hitter to pop to the catcher and then getting the pitcher to ground to first. Working around the one-out triple didn’t look like much at the time given that the Phils were down four late, but it turned out to be important when the Phils mounted a huge rally in the ninth.

Park did not pitch in the series after throwing 43 pitches against the Reds on Thursday.

Durbin started the seventh inning of game two with the Phillies down 5-3 and having just gotten back into the game with three runs in the bottom of the sixth. The first two men he faced reached on a single and a walk before a ground out. With men on first and third and one down, he walked Freddy Sanchez to load the bases. Eyre came in to pitch to the lefty Jones.

Walker pitched the ninth in game two with the Phils down 7-3. He allowed a two-out single, but got Doumit to pop to Feliz to end the frame.

Madson pitched the eighth inning yesterday with the Phillies up 5-1. He gave up a double and a soft single in the frame but kept the Pirates off the board with the help of a base-running mistake from McCutchen. With two outs and men on first and third, Sanchez flew to right and Werth doubled McCutchen off of first to set the Pirates down.

Madson hasn’t been charged with a run in his last five appearances, allowing just two hits and no walked over 5 2/3 innings. He hasn’t walked a hitter since June 30, which was six appearances ago.

Lidge entered game one in the top of the ninth with one out and the Phils up 3-1. He struck out Andy LaRoche for the first out and had Moss down 1-2, but Moss homered to right to cut the Phillies lead to 3-2. Jack Wilson was next and he singled. Lidge got behind pinch-hitter Delwyn Young 3-0, but came back to strike him out swinging 3-2 to end the game.

The bullpen gets a long rest before they will need to pitch again.

The Phillies scored 16 runs in the three-game series.

Rollins was 3-for-10 with two doubles and three walks in the series. He goes into the break hitting 229/287/355. 14-for-his-last-42 with ten walks and seven extra-base hits. He’s hitting 378/500/578 in July.

Victorino went 4-for-12 with two doubles. 309/375/464. 400/464/600 in July.

Utley was 5-for-11 with a walk. 313/430/573 for the year.

Howard was 3-for-7 with an enormous home run in game two. Four RBI and five walks in the series. 257/341/529 for the year. Nine walks in his last 17 at-bats.

Werth went 1-for-9 with a double, three walks and two RBI. He’s at 263/371/513.

Feliz’s grand slam yesterday gave the Phillies all the offense they would need to win the game. 3-for-9 with a double and a home run in the series. Dobbs started game two at third. Feliz is at 293/338/418 for the season.

Mayberry started in left in game one. He was 0-for-4 in the series to drop his line to 184/231/469. 1-for-his-last-24 with 12 strikeouts.

Bako caught the first two games of the series and continues to see his role with the team expand. He had a walkoff single in the bottom of the ninth in game two. 2-for-8 in the series. He’s hitting just 214/267/250 for the year.

Ruiz started yesterday and was 0-for-3. 235/335/367 on the season. 3-for-his-last-22.

Bruntlett’s first half has been a disaster. He didn’t play against the Pirates and is hitting 139/207/208 for the year.

Ibanez started games two and three in left field. He went 2-for-9 with two doubles and an RBI. 309/367/649 for the year. If he slugs .649 all season long it would be a career-high.

Dobbs started at third in game two. 0-for-2 with an RBI in the series. 269/311/463 on the year. He’s hitting .344 in July after hitting .342 in June.

Stairs was 1-for-1 in the series with a game two home run in the ninth inning. He is hitting 283/434/517 on the year.

This says that Pedro Martinez will fly to Philadelphia today for a physical.