IT TOOK THE Phillies seven games to break .500, then another 10 to break it again. Fourteen games later, with a 10-game road swing on tap, they are back even.

The culprits for the roller-coaster ride have been numerous, and have encompassed all aspects of the team. While pitching has taken most of the blame, the offense lately - and in particular yesterday - has hit something of a slide.

During a six-game homestand that ended with a 5-3 loss to the Dodgers yesterday, the Phillies hit just .187 and scored 24 runs.

Charlie Manuel said he doesn't think the team has been pressing at the plate.

"I think that it might be from taking too many pitches, but it's not that we're trying too hard or are overaggressive or something," the Phillies manager said. "If it is, we have kind of a different way of showing it. I think it's a matter of us getting more after it, getting more hungry."

Those might be the words of a manager trying to challenge his team, or the words of a manager who was simply frustrated after losing a game that was there for the taking.

The Phillies did face an impressive array of pitchers, particularly the past couple of days in young Dodgers starters Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley. And, sometimes, good pitching wins.

"I feel like guys are playing hard. Good teams find ways to win on a daily basis," second baseman Chase Utley said. "I don't see us trying to do too much, I don't see us putting too much pressure on ourselves. Sometimes you have to tip your hat to the pitcher. Overall, I think we can hit a little better."

The entire lineup has struggled lately, although it did carry the Phillies throughout much of the first month of the season. Utley is hitless in his last four games, going 0-for-15 with seven strikeouts. Ryan Howard is hitless in his last three games, going 0-for-11 with seven strikeouts.

"We're just not playing good," Manuel said. "We're not hitting the ball good. We're taking a lot of fastballs, I think at times we try to work a count, but then we end up swinging at bad balls, breaking balls and stuff. We're just not putting it together. It's just not there right now. We have to get it, too."

But it is tough to identify an exact reason for the slump.

"I don't know," Howard said, "that's just it. We've been scuffling a little bit, trying to get runs, get hits and it's just, that's baseball."

Ruiz thriving

One player who has hit well the last two games is catcher Carlos Ruiz, who went 2-for-4 with two doubles in a 9-2 loss to the Dodgers Wednesday and went 2-for-2 with a game-tying two-run double in the ninth yesterday. Ruiz, who missed a little more than 2 weeks on the disabled list with a strained oblique, is now hitting .257. Charlie Manuel said Ruiz made some adjustments in his swing, although he declined to be specific.


The Phillies will visit the White House today from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in honor of their 2008 World Series title . . . Lefthander J.A. Happ remains on track to start the nightcap of the Phillies' doubleheader with Washington tomorrow . . . Chase Utley was hit by a pitch yesterday, setting a franchise record with 89 in his career . . . Righthander Ryan Madson has pitched a season-high 9 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings . . . Chad Billingsley's 123 pitches marked a career high. *