WASHINGTON - An obviously frustrated Charlie Manuel sat behind a desk in Nationals Park and tried his hardest not to take anything away from Washington righthander Tim Redding.
For sure, Redding pitched well, holding the Phillies without a run for the second time this season.
But on the flip side, the Phillies' lineup is built to overcome pitchers who merely perform well, and the past couple of days they have not come through, particularly not in last night's 4-0 loss to the Nationals.
"To win you have to score, of course," Manuel said, "and the last 2 days for sure we've definitely missed opportunities to score."
Plain and simple, it wasn't a good night, and one look at the box score was all it took to realize that. Phillies hitters went 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position. Phillies pitchers allowed Washington to tie a season high with six doubles, several of them bouncing like pinballs off the large green walls that separate field from stands at the sparkling new stadium.
Both worked to the detriment of a team that suddenly has lost three in a row for the first time this season.
Phillies starter Brett Myers did a little to slow the snowball of questions about his early-season struggles, allowing three runs on eight hits, an effort that theoretically should give a lineup like the Phillies' an excellent chance to win.
The Phillies are 3-7 when Myers pitches.
"I didn't have the best stuff, but I battled through it," said Myers, who fell to 2-5 with a 5.76 ERA.
Indeed, two of the Nationals' runs came off what looked like a pretty good pitch, which Lastings Milledge happened to drop just inside the first-base line in front of charging rightfielder Geoff Jenkins for a double in the third inning.
And in the first, a good relay throw from Jimmy Rollins on a sacrifice fly by Dimitri Young likely would have nailed Cristian Guzman at the plate. Instead, the throw sailed to the right of catcher Carlos Ruiz, who left the plate to make the catch and couldn't get back into position in time to make the tag.
"You just try to keep your team in the game, and I felt like I did that for the most part tonight," Myers said. "I worked out of some jams that I probably shouldn't have been in, so I'm still trying to find it."
"He pitched a good enough game for us to win, if we were scoring runs," Manuel said.
But the Phillies hitters struggled to drive in runners for the second consecutive game. They had runners in scoring position in each of the first four innings and came up short each time.
Twice, Jenkins led off an inning with a double, and twice third baseman Pedro Feliz failed to either advance or drive in the runners.
"You've got to remember, when Feliz is hitting in the seventh hole there, and then we've got the eighth and the pitcher coming up and we've got the runner in scoring position, I want him hitting there," Manuel said. "Don't get me wrong: We have to move our runners; we have to play situation baseball. But in a situation like that when he is in the seventh hole and then we've got the catcher and then the pitcher, he is the man.
"He's the guy of those three guys that's going to carry the big bat. He gets a ball to drive. I don't care if it goes behind the runner or ahead of the runner. I want him to hit the ball hard and try to drive the ball in. That's how I want him to do it in a situation like that. But at the same time, we've had trouble moving runners all year long."
The Phillies looked like they had the makings for some runs in the first inning when Shane Victorino and Chase Utley hit consecutive one-out singles. But Ryan Howard struck out and Pat Burrell grounded out to end the frame.
A double by Jenkins to rightfield in the third inning was followed by three straight groundouts. Ditto for the fourth.
Ruiz was on second with one out in the seventh, but Victorino grounded out and Utley flied out.
In the last two games, the Phillies are 3-for-25 with runners in scoring position. In the last three games, they are 4-for-32.
"That's what this game is about: Getting it done . . . getting it done is what we're all about," Manuel said. "We want to win. We talk about winning. We've got guys on our team, that's what they talk about, they talk about winning. I talk about winning, my coaches talk about winning. And how are we going to win? We're going to win by playing good and executing and having fun and hustling and playing hard and getting the job done. That's how we're going to win."
The Phillies will get another chance tonight. *