Is a slump a slump if it lasts 10 weeks?

Or is it time to accept that this is just who the Phillies are?

Charlie Manuel wants to believe that the Phillies are better than this. The manager wants to believe that they can hit. He wants to believe that they are the same team that led the National League in scoring in each of the last two seasons.

But the Phillies have been far from that since June 13, and it showed again last night in a 4-3 loss to the wretched Washington Nationals at Citizens Bank Park.

The loss snapped the Nationals' 12-game losing streak and the Phils' three-game winning streak, and dropped the Phillies 21/2 games behind the New York Mets in the National League East - their largest deficit since April 23.

"We're definitely capable of hitting," Manuel said. "We've hit for the last 31/2 years. We have a lot of the same guys. I know they can hit, but I can't exactly tell you when we're going to get going."

The Phillies managed just eight hits against the Nationals. They had runners on first and second with no outs in the eighth inning, but couldn't score. They had the tying run on second base with nobody out in the ninth inning, but couldn't score.

"It's a little surprising, but it's probably out of my jurisdiction," pitcher Jamie Moyer said. "I'm not a hitter. You're asking the wrong guy."

Hitters were scarce in the clubhouse afterward, although Chase Utley later emerged and said he is confident the Phillies will get back on track.

"I'm very concerned about our hitting," Manuel said. "Without a doubt, I think every guy in that room in there knows we're better than how we've been playing."

The Phillies haven't had 10 hits in a game since Aug. 11 against the Los Angeles Dodgers. They have hit .203 (57 for 281) and averaged just 3.11 runs per game in the nine games since. They have hit .211 (128 for 607) and averaged just 3.21 runs per game in August.

They have hit .237 and averaged just 4.03 runs per game since June 13.

The offense wasted another fine performance by Moyer, who allowed five hits, two runs (one earned) and three walks and struck out four in 62/3 innings.

Elias Sports Bureau reported that Moyer is the fourth pitcher this season to have at least 14 consecutive starts with three or fewer runs allowed. Chicago Cubs righthander Rich Harden (May 17 to July 31) and Oakland Athletics righthander Justin Duchscherer (May 6 to July 20) also had 14 consecutive starts this season.

Cincinnati Reds righthander Edinson Volquez (April 6 to June 20) had 15 consecutive starts with three or fewer runs, including one start to finish last season to push his streak to 16.

No Phillies pitcher has had a longer streak than Moyer's since Chris Short had 23 consecutive starts in 1967.

It seems as if it has been that long since the Phillies offense last clicked.