Let’s hop back into the Phillies time machine for a minute.

We aren’t going that far back. Just about 12 days. The Phillies were in Cincinnati. It was a Saturday night. Matt Strahm was struggling to find the plate, but was being effectively wild in the sense that he left the game having allowed just one run.

The problem was he was being lifted by manager Rob Thomson in the third inning. It was a questionable decision because Strahm had been so good early this season that even in this, his worst outing, he was still battling and still keeping the Phillies in the game.

In strode Andrew Bellatti, who we would soon learn was dealing with an arm issue, but to this point had been one of only two truly reliable arms in the bullpen along with Jose Alvarado.

Thomson wanted Bellatti to get out of this early-inning jam and then figure out his bullpen rotation for the next six innings from there.

I don’t want to make you relive the rest because it got ugly. Bellatti was shelled, McKinley Moore followed suit with an equally horrible inning, and in the end Thomson turned to position player Josh Harrison to take one for the team in what would be a 13-0 shellacking by the Reds.

At the time, there were serious concerns about the Phillies bullpen. Aside from Alvarado, Bellatti now looked human. Craig Kimbrel couldn’t throw his slider anywhere near the plate and his fastball velocity wasn’t where he wanted it. Seranthony Dominguez looked lost with each appearance. Gregory Soto and Connor Brogdon were inconsistent at best, and although long-guy Andrew Vasquez was fine, Moore, who the Phillies believe has a bright future in the MLB as a reliever, was just not ready for prime time.

Now, jumping back into the DeLorean and using 1.21 gigawatts of plutonium in the flux capacitor to get back to today, we can look back at the last 10 games the Phillies have played and see a much different bullpen world then where we left it in Cincinnati.

Over the last 10 games the Phillies bullpen has thrown 32 innings. In that span they have a 0.84 ERA, a 0.75 WHIP, and have struck out 10 times as many batters as they have walked. They have thrown 29 innings not allowing a run at all. They’ve allowed just 20 hits and four walks while striking out 40 batters.

It’s pretty damn dominant.

The most recent display of brilliance from the bullpen came on Wednesday. After Taijuan Walker had to leave the game with right forearm tightness (more on that later), and the Phillies down three runs, the bullpen was needed for five innings of work.

All they did was shut down a solid Seattle Mariners lineup for all five innings, allowing the hitters to claw their way back and eventually win the game with a rally in the bottom of the eighth, downing Seattle 6-5.

And while everyone will want to talk about the comeback, sparked by the red-hot Nick Castellanos – who had three more hits, another home run, and is one of the best hitters in baseball at the moment – and electrified by consecutive hits by Brandon Marsh, J.T. Realmuto and Alec Bohm, the story of the game was the bullpen, once again.

Luis Ortiz, who the Phillies deftly claimed off waivers from the San Francisco Giants last November, has been a strike-throwing, soft-contact inducing machine in his seven innings since being recalled from the minors. Two of those innings came in relief of Walker where he allowed just one hit.

After he kept the Phillies in the game into the later innings and his team was able to claw back within a run Thomson decided to turn to his bigger arms to see if they could keep the score right where it was, giving the offense a greater chance to tie the game or outright pull ahead.

First it was Dominguez, who faced four batters, struck out two and gave up one hit. Then it was Kimbrel who has really looked good in his last seven outings (6 2/3 IP, 3H, 0R, 1BB, 11K). Kimbrel went 3-up and 3-Down striking out two with max efficiency.

Then, after the rally to go ahead, Alvarado was Alvarado. Eliciting Jose chants from the fans as he put away each Mariners hitter to earn his fourth save:

Is this kind of dominance sustainable? Yes. Maybe not to this degree – there’s going to be games where someone in the bullpen has an off night and it results in the Phillies losing a game. But this collection of arms is settling into their roles. Four guys have experience closing out games and are waiting to be thrown at you in the late innings while a group of quality arms can get you through the middle innings. The Phillies will be able to shorten a lot of games this season thanks to what could end up being one of the best bullpens in the sport by season’s end.

TAIJUAN’S TIGHTNESS

For Walker it was supposed to be a special game. It was the first time he was going to have a chance to ever pitch against the Mariners, who were the team that drafted him and ultimately gave him his first chance in the big leagues.

It had been a while since he was traded by Seattle to Arizona in November, 2016 (in a deal for, among other players, Jean Segura), so it wasn’t like he was pitching against a bunch of former teammates, but it was still a special occasion. Some 6.5 years in the making.

Walker was dominant through the first five batters he faced, and then suddenly he started to feel something in his throwing arm. The next four hitters went walk, infield single, walk, and former Phillie J.P. Crawford (who the Phillies traded to Seattle for…. wait for it.. Jean Segura) reminded everyone why he was such a highly touted prospect when he was in the Phillies organization:

Walker then let up another bomb to budding superstar Julio Rodriguez and in the span of five batters he went from lights out to injured and struggling.

Walker was able to work through two more innings, saying he was able to regain a little command on the splitter, which helped him get through. But the tightness wasn’t going away so Thomson pulled him after 68 pitches as a precaution.

After meeting with the trainers the Phillies are optimistic that it isn’t too troubling an injury, but forearm tightness has a tendency to lead to elbow issues and elbow issues are never good.

Walker is seeing the doctor Thursday. There was no word yet if he was going to get an MRI. He said after the game that it was still sore, but that it was quieting down. Keep in mind Ranger Suarez had forearm tightness in March and he’s still a couple weeks away from returning to the big leagues. It’s hard to imagine Walker staying on turn, even if the doctor’s visit brings positive news, so the Phillies may have to turn back to Christopher Sanchez next week in Los Angeles if Walker needs to miss any time.

PASS THE BATON

The Phillies started the game up 2-0 as Castellanos hit his third homer of the year in the bottom of the first:

They added two more runs on RBI singles by Kyle Schwarber in the third and Castellanos in the fifth.

Then the rally happened in the eighth inning, and it started with Castellanos lacing a single to centerfield for his third hit of the game. Castellanos is now slashing .333/.396/.531 with a .927 OPS. He’s second on the Phillies with 16 RBIs. He leads the National League with 10 doubles. He was the DH against the Mariners Wednesday, but he’s been solid in right field and has five outfield assists already. His career best for an entire season is 10.

Marsh followed up a Castellanos single with one of his own and extended his career-best on-base streak to 21 games. Realmuto followed with a game-tying single, which in my mind, was a generous scoring decision because it should have been a double play ball. It would have still tied the game, but it really wasn’t played well by Gold Glover Kolten Wong:

That set the stage for Bohm, who had been scuffling of late, and entered the at bat riding a 4-for-29 cold streak.

The Phillies are going to hit and do so more consistently – like this inning – as the season moves forward. They had another 12 hits against the Mariners. They are hitting .279 as a team, which tops the NL. They are slugging .450, which is second in the league and their OPS is .786, which ranks third.

Just imagine what the lineup is going to be like once Bryce Harper is back in a week or so…