LOS ANGELES -- Roy Halladay watched the Phillies lose and lose badly for seven weeks while he recuperated from a strained right back muscle, putting them in this position with the July 31 Trade Deadline just 13 days away.
And what position is this?
Hunter Pence put it best following Tuesday's 3-2 victory over the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium.
"There really is no tomorrow," he said. "We've got to win, and we've got to win now."
Halladay came to Philadelphia in December 2009 to win, and he does not expect that to change, although he is smart enough to understand the situation at hand. The Phillies are 10 games under .500 and 9 1/2 games behind the National League Wild Card leaders. That deep hole has the front office thinking about trading players like Cole Hamels and Shane Victorino with an eye on 2013 and beyond.
Halladay, who pitched Tuesday for the first time since May 27, said it has been difficult to watch.
"It's an organization that has been committed to winning and you want to see that continue, and obviously there are points where they may have to reconsider how they're going to go about that, but I hope that's long after I'm gone to be honest with you," he said. "You want to have every chance you can to try to win. It's tough having a Trade Deadline and being at the point we're in. It puts the pressure on the front office. But I don't think any of us have given up on it, and I know they haven't in the front office."
The Phillies have shown a pulse since the All-Star break. They are 4-1, including Tuesday's victory. It was the first time this season the Phillies have won a game when trailing after seven innings, improving to 1-38.
It might have come a few months later than expected, but the Phillies will take it.
They have a chance to sweep the Dodgers in Wednesday's series finale. It would be the first three-game sweep of the season.
It would come at a big time, too.
The Phillies have looked like a different team the past four days after looking like lost souls for the first three-plus months of the season. But maybe they are finding some stability after returning some of their principal players. Chase Utley has been in the lineup since June 27 and Ryan Howard has been in the lineup since July 6. And on Tuesday, Halladay rejoined the rotation after spending nearly two months on the disabled list because of a strained right lat.
"You can't deny how huge of an impact it is having Chase and Ryan in the lineup, the dynamic of what it does to the ballgame, just the pitchers in general," Pence said. "It makes it a lot tougher to deal with everyone. There's more intangibles to having them in the lineup than just how good they are."
Halladay allowed five hits, two runs and struck out six in five innings. He looked OK for his first start since May 27. He retired 10 of the final 12 batters he faced.
"I feel like each time it's getting a little bit better," Halladay said. "Consistency, there's still some mechanical things that I just want to be able to repeat better. But I felt good."
"I don't think he's as sharp as he usually is," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "Usually he's boom-boom-boom. I don't think he's quite right yet. But he keeps pitching, changing speeds. He's coming after everybody."
Pence came through with the game's biggest hit in the eighth. Dodgers right-hander Ronald Belisario had two outs and nobody on but walked Utley and hit Howard and Carlos Ruiz with pitches to load the bases. Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen entered to face Pence, who singled up the middle to score Utley and pinch-runner John Mayberry Jr.
Pence is hitting .409 (9-for-22) with runners in scoring position since June 24. That is a good sign for the Phillies.
So is the fact nearly everybody is back.
"One guy isn't going to turn it around," Halladay said. "I know they keep talking about Chase coming back and Ryan and me, but one guy's not going to do it. We all need to chip in where we can. I think that's important to look at it that way and realize that you're not going to do it yourself. There's not one guy that's going to do it alone. It's important to keep in mind. We need everybody. We've been playing better here. It's positive for us so we want to keep that going as much as we can."
But Halladay was asked the obvious: Why is it realistic in his mind they can still make the postseason?
"We saw what happened last year with Atlanta and St. Louis getting in and going all the way to win the World Series," he said. "I mean, it's happened before. It's going to be difficult. There's a long ways to go and it's a steep hill to climb, but I think there's got to be a positive mentality and especially when you have the players we have. It's not like we have players that can't compete and can't win. We have those players here.
"It's just a matter of going out and being able to do it and give ourselves a chance, but you look at the way baseball has gone the last few years. There's definitely a chance. I don't think there's any reason to believe there wouldn't be."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.