PHILADELPHIA -- In the general scheme of things, one win when you're 15 1/2 games out and 11 below .500 is no reason to jump up and down and get all excited.
But, hey, the Phillies needed this one.
They hadn't beaten the Cardinals since, well, it's hard to remember, but it certainly wasn't during the first three games of this series or the whole series in St. Louis last week (try early April). They hadn't won since Sunday, when they sent Dwight Gooden for a loop, then had to all but beg for a 10-9 win.
And they hadn't felt good about themselves for a long, long time.
But Thursday night, the Phillies beat the Cardinals, 7-1. The manager smiled. The pitcher cracked jokes. Kids ran around the clubhouse and no one told them to shut up.
"It was a much-needed victory . . . for the manager's personality," said Jim Fregosi, who, for a change, was smiling in his office after a game.
The best news was Terry Mulholland, who started the season with a city's worth of expectations on his shoulders and found that the load was too heavy for his strained (left) and arthritic (right) knees. He was a different man Thursday night -- almost unrecognizable -- zipping in fastballs that no one at Veterans Stadium (not that 14,921 spectators constituted a lot of people) had seen before.
"I think I found [the fastball] in the training room those nine days I had off while missing a turn," said Mulholland, who made his second start after sitting out with knee problems. "I'm not saying it's my everyday fastball from now on, but I had it tonight and I used it."
He struck out 12 -- yes, 12 -- a number he had never seen before and no Phillies pitcher had reached this year. And, get this, the Cardinals supposedly are the second-hardest team to strike out in the league. They have struck out 378 times, to the Mets' 360.
"That was somebody else out there on the mound," Mulholland said, shaking his head. "I don't know who that guy was. . . . I don't think I'll surpass that. Eight strikeouts was a lot for me. I'm not a strikeout pitcher."
"I just wanted to go out there and pitch a good game for the team. Whether we score nine runs or one run or no runs, we needed something going into this last series with the Mets."
But the Phillies got the hitting, too -- and early -- with a Ricky Jordan single, John Kruk double and Dale Murphy homer providing three runs in the first. Jordan homered in the third with Charlie Hayes on base for two more runs and the Phillies added insurance with single runs in the sixth and eighth.
Cardinals pitchers, meanwhile, could strike out only one Phillie, appropriately Mulholland, who had problems with a bunt attempt in the seventh.
"I needed it physically and I needed it mentally to get it together tonight," said Mulholland, who said his legs felt great the whole game. "It makes it so much easier to look at the second half [of the season]."
Mulholland, around whom the rotation was built this season, will not start again until July 11, the first game after the All-Star break. The Phils, meanwhile, still have to face New York.
"We've been slumping," Jordan said. "We haven't been getting runs or anything. . . . We needed this, especially with this series with New York."