Maybe the Brewers were just that good?
The Phillies recovered from an embarrassing sweep last week against Milwaukee by sweeping the Marlins in three games this past weekend. The Brewers have won nine in a row, sweeping the Red Sox, Phillies and Pirates, so it's possible the Phils just ran into a buzzsaw at an inopportune time.
Here are five observations from the Phillies-Marlins series:
1) More than one way to skin a cat
The Phillies beat the Marlins three times in three different ways.
On Friday, they chased Jose Fernandez early by scoring six runs off him in four innings. In Fernandez's previous 10 starts, he allowed seven runs in 65 2/3 innings.
After improbably ending Fernandez's night early, the Phils hung on for a 6-3 win saved by Jonathan Papelbon.
On Saturday, Justin De Fratus (for whatever reason) threw Giancarlo Stanton a first-pitch fastball right down the middle which Stanton quickly deposited to left field to tie the game. But after that, the Phils' bullpen combined on Saturday and Sunday to put just four men on base in seven scoreless innings.
The late home runs by Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley stuck out, but if not for the bullpen's success, they might not have mattered.
2) Utley ... unreal
Utley hit a game-winning home run on Sunday to cap off a monstrous week at the plate. Utley enters play Monday hitting .500 with a .565 on-base percentage and .875 slugging percentage. All three marks lead the majors.
Utley also leads the majors with 1.5 WAR (Wins Above Replacement), which factors in offense, defense and baserunning. Utley has posted more WAR than second basemen Robinson Cano, Dustin Pedroia, Ian Kinsler, Brandon Phillips and Jason Kipnis ... combined.
Utley has always started years strong. His 1.004 OPS in the month of April since 2005 is the highest in all of baseball, ahead of Miguel Cabrera, Ryan Braun, Matt Kemp and Joey Votto. But he's never had a start quite like this.
3) Papelbon looks better
Papelbon pitched in all three games of the Marlins series, which likely makes him unavailable Monday night for the series opener against Atlanta.
In those three games, Papelbon's velocity increased and he used his slider more than usual. Both were great signs -- to be effective, Papelbon will need a fastball in the 92-93 mph range. And because his fastball is diminished, he'll need to use the slider more frequently than the 8.5 percent of the time as he's done in his career to this point.
4) Gonna be a long year for Howard
Ryan Howard right now looks like the slowest runner in baseball and the worst defensive player at the game's easiest defensive position. A lot of the decline has been injury-induced, but you have to call a spade a spade.
The ball Howard missed on Saturday that led to an unearned run for Jonathan Pettibone was inexcusable for a major-league first baseman. Howard, who is having trouble stretching and bending because of the leg issues, simply dropped a low-but-catchable throw from Rollins.
Howard did homer on Sunday, and he's going to need to do that about 33 more times this year to offset his defense and baserunning.
5) Leadoff production
Between Ben Revere and Tony Gwynn, Jr., the Phillies are getting exactly type of on-base skills out of the leadoff spot they need.
Gwynn went 5 for 10 over the weekend starting in place of Revere, who has a sore rib. Revere pinch-hit in both games.
In total, Phillies leadoff batters this season have hit .315 with a .351 OBP. They've scored 10 runs and gone 5 for 5 in stolen base attempts.
The batting average is 45 points higher than last year and the on-base percentage is 38 points higher.