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Ugly baseball, but Phillies see no need to panic

Since 4:00 p.m. Sunday evening. . .

The Flyers have clinched their first Stanley Cup berth since 1997.

The television series "Lost" has said goodbye after six seasons.

More than 60,000 barrels of oil have spilled into the Gulf of Mexico, according to new estimates released today.

But the Phillies haven't scored a run, and the only thing standing in their way of a major-league-record five straight shutout losses is a three-run ninth inning against the Red Sox on Sunday evening.

You can read all about the latest struggles in today's Daily News, but the crux of the Phillies mind-set right now seems to be seven words Charlie Manuel uttered in his office after a 3-0 loss to the Mets.

"Panicking ain't going to do no good," he said.

Chances are, you'd like to see a little panic out of them. Some strong words from a team leader. A choke-hold delivered to a reporter. At the very least, a broken Gatorade Cooler or two.

But Manuel has always gravitated more toward Smith than Keynes, and for the time being the fate of this Phillies offense will rest on whatever Invisible Hand has guided them through these last couple of seasons.

He calls it the "human nature part of the game," and while it might take some time, the nature of this Phillies team always gravitates back toward equillibrium.

If you think this is the worst nine-game offense stretch you have witnessed over the past two-plus years, you are probably right. Only one other time since the start of the 2008 season have they gone nine games without scoring more than five runs. And even during that 14-game stretch last season, they hit 20 home runs and 49 extra base hits. Not since 1983 have they been shutout in three straight games. Of course, they went to the World Series that year, and there is nothing to suggest that they are markedly worse than the one that went to the World Series last year.

Don't take that as the rambling of an apologist. It's just the way it is.

As recently as last September they endured a similar stretch. In four games against the Giants and Astros, they mustered three runs and eight extra base hits while putting 30 men on base. Their numbers over the last four games? Three runs, eight extra base hits and 31 base-runners.

Over the last nine games this year? 15 runs, 89 baserunners, 16 extra base hits.

Over the nine-game stretch that included the aforementioned Giants/Astros games in 2009? 17 runs, 88 baserunners, 23 extra base hits.

It has happened before. And history suggests it will happen again.

They have faced two knuckleballers, and played three games in the cavernous Citi Field. They have also run into some bad luck.

The fact is, they aren't hitting. And there is no concrete answer why.

If they fail to score against the Marlins and Braves and find themselves four games out of first place next week, then maybe you can panic.