FIFTH STARTER.

Fifth of five.

That was supposed to be Jonathan Pettibone's job while John Lannan found himself on the disabled list. It is a job with low expectations and, simultaneously, with real meaning - especially for a team like the Phillies, a team that has had so much trouble generating consistent offense and that has been underwater in the standings for weeks.

Pettibone arrived unheralded. No one knew what to expect, not really. When he pitched well in his first game, the Phillies were not even ready to acknowledge immediately that he would get a second start. Then he did - and two starts became three, and three became four, and four became five.

And now he is 3-0 with a 3.41 ERA. And now, with Roy Halladay about to have shoulder surgery, Pettibone is really the fourth starter until Lannan gets back (likely in a couple of weeks). Fifth, fourth, whatever: even for a scuffling baseball team - and, maybe, especially for a scuffling baseball team - this success cannot be ignored.

"All I really wanted to do when I got called up was to give the team an opportunity to win each time I go out there," Pettibone said, after the Phillies beat the Cleveland Indians, 6-2. "I didn't want to try to do too much . . . Just give the team a chance to win, and let the offense and the back of the bullpen take care of the rest."

On Tuesday night against the Indians, Pettibone threw 92 pitches in 6 2/3 innings. He allowed two runs on four hits. He gave up two runs on three hits in the bottom of the second inning. He got out of a bases-loaded jam in the third inning, two of the runners reaching after being hit by pitches. But it was pretty much flawless after that.

The outing was Pettibone's longest of the season. And as for his demeanor, the 22-year-old continues to impress with his overall calm.

"He pitched a good game," manager Charlie Manuel said. "He kept his composure, threw his fastball on both sides of the plate, got his breaking ball over at the right times . . . For the first time in the major leagues, I think he's doing a tremendous job."