PHOENIX - The Phillies won but Charlie Manuel was distracted. He uncapped a blue marker and doodled on his worn lineup card late Saturday night in the desert. He never lifted his head when asked about his hitters' finally executing in key situations to snap a three-game losing skid.
The 69-year-old manager mumbled. He repeated a message heard so frequently in the last 13 months, and his plodding tone suggested that even Manuel had doubts about it.
"We don't need to get down and everything," Manuel said. "We need to stay even-keeled and come out every day and . . . we're going to hit. Keep our head up and keep going at them. If you don't hit anything, there is nothing you can do about it except come try to be more prepared the next day and determined. You keep your cool, we'll get a chance."
The words lose meaning with each mediocre week. The Phillies rested Monday, all of four games behind Atlanta for first place in the National League East. Nothing is decided in 39 games of baseball. Still, the trends are discouraging for Manuel's team.
The Phillies could hide behind the absences of Ryan Howard and Chase Utley early last season. Any lineup would stumble when missing its third and fourth hitters. And those Phillies still posted a better record through 39 games (20-19 vs. 18-21) and scored 21 more runs than this edition.
"We're going to hit," Manuel said again.
This time, Manuel is banking on Carlos Ruiz and Delmon Young rounding into shape after missing the first month because of a suspension and ankle surgery. Much of the personnel is the same from a season ago. So are the results.
The Phillies have hit only 32 home runs, tied for 23d in the majors entering Monday's games.
At its core, the Phillies' offense is flawed. The team's on-base percentage is .301, which ranked 26th in baseball through play Sunday. It is making outs at an unsustainable rate for success.
This is nothing new. The Phillies' .317 on-base percentage in 2012 was the franchise's lowest since 1991. Last year's bunch drew 2.8 walks per game, the fewest since 1964. The 2013 Phillies are walking at an even less-frequent pace of 2.6 per game.
It makes scoring more difficult. Their last 14 home runs have been solo shots. A low team on-base percentage means the chances of connecting on a blast with runners on base are lower.
The Phillies were 4-3 on their western swing to San Francisco and Phoenix. The three losses were each by one run. Their pitching was exemplary.
"I feel like it was a pretty productive road trip," second baseman Chase Utley said. "We played two pretty good teams in their ballparks. They were all good games, whether we won or lost, they were good baseball games. For the most part, I'm happy with how we played."
Is there no fear that in another month's time, the Phillies will look up and see the same results displayed since the start of 2012?
"Unless somebody just starts taking off and lighting it up, unless we start getting two or three guys hot," Manuel said. "If we stay like we are, that's kind of how we are going to play. We have to start hitting better."
Before Saturday's game, the Phillies were hitting .248. "That means 'inconsistent,' " Manuel said. The team's batting average dropped to .244 by the end of the trip.
That .244 batting average ranked 10th in the National League entering Monday, which is a commentary in itself. The league's average is .248, down from .254 in 2012. The last time the NL hit lower than .248 over a full season was 1989 (.246).
"And when guys are hitting .240 and .230 and stuff, that won't get it done," Manuel said. "We talk about consistent, well, that's inconsistent. That's the first thing. You can cut it any way you want to."
The same could be said for the first 39 games for these Phillies. They are four games back. They flash life, as they did on the final two days in Arizona. But the first six weeks of 2013 resembled much of 2012, and that is not the desired barometer.
Where They Rank
Here is where the Phillies rank in the 15-team National League:
BA 10th .244
Hits 8th 313
Runs 12th 138
Doubles tied 5th 62
Triples tied 6th 6
HR 10th 32
RBIs 12th 128
BB tied 9th 103
SO 6th 291
SB 9th 18
OBP 13th .301
SLG 12th .377
OPS 13th .678
ERA 12th 4.11
Saves 13th 7
Hits tied 8th 315
Runs 11th 163
HR tied 13th 44
BB 9th 115
SO 7th 284
BA tied 4th .244