When the Phillies broke camp at Clearwater in late March, left-hander Antonio Bastardo was viewed as a spare part in the bullpen. As the Phillies entered September with the best record in baseball, Bastardo has become one of the most important pieces in that bullpen.
Bastardo was spectacular again in the main setup role Thursday, recording five outs while facing four Cincinnati hitters during Philadelphia's 6-4 victory over the Reds.
Bastardo forced Joey Votto to ground into an inning-ending double play, squelching a Reds rally in the seventh, then struck out the side in the eighth inning to give the game over to Ryan Madson, who recorded his 26th save.
"It's crazy how dominating he's been," said Brad Lidge, who had a near perfect season in 2008. "I've been in a lot of bullpens with a lot of good pitchers, and I don't think I've seen anyone doing what he's doing right now.
"(In 2008) I was giving up hits, not a ton of hits, but more than he's giving up, that's for sure. He's giving up nothing. I don't want to say too much to jinx him, but I don't think it matters at this point what anybody says."
The numbers prove that point.
Opponents are batting .112 against Bastardo, the best in baseball history in over the last 50 years. In 2003, Dodgers closer Eric Gagne held hitters to a .133 average en route to winning the National League Cy Young award.
Bastardo has allowed just 19 hits in 52 innings this season. In his last six games, Bastardo has struck out 14 of the 23 hitters he has faced.
Not that he's counting.
"I don't look at numbers," Bastardo said on Thursday. "It's day-by-day. I'm trying to do my best job."
Antonio Bastardo's career MLB stats