With singular efforts like Raul Ibanez (above) walk-off homer in the 10th, you stop wondering whether the Phils can conjure greatness in pressure-cooker moments.
After months of toying and tinkering, they found it.
After a half-season of fumbling, they're onto it.
The Phillies found the formula.
Not just to win, even in epic fashion against the second-place team in the National League East and consensus runners-up as baseball's most feared club (for now).
The 3-2 win at Citizen's Bank Park over the Atlanta Braves was fine, but it was more a road map than a destination.
This is what they need to do to contend.
Sounds sacrilege, given that another tally on the left puts the Phils at 56-33, above and beyond the best record in baseball, especially after padding the gap between Atlanta, now 3.5 games back.
But the Phillies' woes were long documented and stacked high enough to cast a shadow.
A small one, like what afternoon suns cast over day games but awkward and intrusive enough to cause worry.
No one game can lift that. However brilliant, no nine-inning summation of singular efforts can wipe it.
Do Carlos Ruiz and Raul Ibanez' singular efforts quell your doubts about the Phils rising up in big spots?
But this was a start.
It started with Carlos Ruiz' homer in the bottom of the fourth, the Phils second answer to a Braves' score. Dan Uggla smacked an infield single in the top of the inning, as Brian McCann slipped the other way to plate Atlanta's second run—their second test of wills in four innings.
It ended with Raul Ibanez's beaming line drive that skipped into the stands. The story, the game—it was the bottom of the 10th inning—the doubt about when they'd would find something to replicate.
The Ruiz and Ibanez jacks had more value, not just because they're sexier stats or instant scores. They represented something grander. Valdez' sacrifice fly, however commendable, that scored Ibanez to tie it at one apiece in the bottom of the second.
You appreciate the small ball, a facet of the game you've begged Philly to try for years.
But for figures like Ruiz and Ibanez, tenured and well-paid and underachieving with .255 and .239, to welcome moments like that was big.
Manufacturing them on-command was huge.
"It's definitely a good feeling," Ibanez said of his sixth career game-winning homer. "You definitely don't try to do that. You try to look for a pitch to drive and when you do it, there's no better feeling as a player."
It's one thing to achieve when asked, what you could characterize Michael Stutes, Antonio Bastardo and Juan Perez' clean eighth, ninth and 10th innings. The three relievers entered in consecutive, margin-for-error-less spots and met expectation.
Granted, we barely knew that Stutes had the slider that ended Alex Gonzalez' night—thing dropped off like Ben Affleck's career—to request it. Even though Bastardo has sent the heart of a hot lineup packing a few times now, it doesn't get old.
You assume results from Roy Halladay, even on a night he was challenged by Atlanta starter Brandon Beachy, whose line rivaled Hallday's, seven innings and as many strikeouts.
But not from Perez, who struck out Jason Heyward, Nate McLouth and Wilkin Ramirez and eluded the makings of a meltdown. Though you'd love to learn that habit.
"I'm excited and pumped up about my first win," Perez said through a translator. "I worked hard to stay sharp mentally and I'm thankful for the opportunity."
Thankful? He volunteered for it. That's the trophy from wins like these, ones you hope last beyond the All-Star break.
Yet the consolation prizes, like Ryan Howard barreling for an infield single in the eighth, were almost as meaningful. Not as flashy or consequential. But Ibanez hustling out a sure-thing double play on after grounding a dribbler to Freddie Freeman (says something it's taken so long to mention his name), matters.
You appreciate those nuggets and from recipients of a copious amount of Ruben Amaro Jr.'s money (Howard) and fans' derision (Ibanez).
Remember: It won't be pretty in the playoffs, often ugly and grueling as last night. And the Phillies conjuring greatness on-call has to be more regular than 4-of-9 extra-inning games, the number they've won.
Question now is whether they learned. Question now is whether they'll perfect it by October.
Questions that can answer themselves if the Phillies can repeat performances like these.