The Phillies continued their amazing home disappearing act yesterday, losing for the third straight day to the Toronto Blue Jays and falling to 1-5 on this homestand.

Life might get a little brighter tonight when the Baltimore Orioles, owners of the worst road record in the American League, drag themselves into town. If you can't have the Washington Nationals around - and the Nats are the only thing standing between the Phils and an 8-18 home record - the Orioles are the next-best option.

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"I'm done. I'm tired of hearing about it," Ryan Howard said after yesterday's tedious 8-7 loss was completed in a crisp 3 hours, 48 minutes. "People can pick and choose what they want to talk about. I'm done talking about losing at home."

There would be a way to end the talk, of course, but the Phils have avoided that since returning from an uplifting road trip by playing comatose baseball in which not only aren't they getting the biggest hits and the biggest pitching performances, but they also aren't doing the small-ball things that are usually second nature to them.

In the third inning yesterday, Toronto shortstop Marco Scutaro got a leadoff walk from Joe Blanton and just kept going, scutaroing all the way to second base when Blanton and the middle infielders stopped paying attention to him. It was embarrassing and did not please the crowd - the 26th sellout crowd in 32 home dates - which had come out despite a long morning of rain.

These things add up. Against the Red Sox over the weekend, Howard had taken his time picking up an errant pickoff attempt and the Boston runner went all the way to third base. Just doesn't look good.

Charlie Manuel notices all this stuff and he's thought about jumping on the Phillies for the lackadaisical recent play. But, then again, he sees that the team is also a little beaten up, a little overworked in the bullpen, and he's decided to wait.

"There are things I don't have to tell our players. I'll see them take care of it in-house and I'll hear them. They'll call one another out," Manuel said. "There is a time. If things get to a place where it's time for me to talk to them, believe me, I will."

Charlie knows best, at least until the shine begins to fade on those World Series rings, but here's betting that the next mental error sets him off. If the Phillies don't win the series against Baltimore, that might light the torch, too.

"Don't get me wrong," he said. "I'm headed that way, I guess."

Yesterday probably wasn't the right day because the team was already feeling a little sorry for itself when leftfielder Raul Ibanez was placed on the 15-day disabled because of a strained groin muscle.

Ibanez has done more than his part in the first two months of the season. But he's struggled for the last week, and the Phillies shut him down in order to get him right again.

"They talked sense into me," Ibanez said. "It's better to lose time now than in August or September. It's been a grind [for me] for a while."

In his absence, the Phils promoted John Mayberry Jr. Manuel said he wasn't sure if the young player is ready for this assignment, but "he's going to get to play enough for us to find out."

What Manuel will also find out is if he has the kind of roster that can come together and make up for the absence of Ibanez in the next two weeks, which includes a three-city road trip.

He'll find out if Matt Stairs and Greg Dobbs can add something other than the occasional pinch-hit, and he'll find out if Jimmy Rollins intends to finally get his batting average and on-base percentage where those need to be. Rollins had three hits, including a home run, yesterday, but he hasn't produced that kind of game consistently.

"With the veteran core we have, we can definitely hold our own," Manuel said. "In the past, we've always had guys who went in and helped. We've had guys step in and really do jobs for us."

They'll have to continue to do that on the road, particularly if the Phils hope to match last season's record. They would need to play .714 ball (35-14) in Citizens Bank Park the rest of the season to equal their home record of a year ago, and that doesn't seem very likely.

Anything is possible, though, and this weekend against the woeful Orioles should offer a good opportunity to get it going. Any time now would be just great.

Contact columnist Bob Ford
at 215-854-5842 or bford@phillynews.com.