As he watched the Phillies stumble through their fifth loss in the last six games at Citizens Bank Park, as their home record sagged to 13-19, manager Charlie Manuel could feel a slow burn rising toward his cap.
It wasn't so much about the pitching, which has been a problem for a while and was again today as Toronto completed a three-game sweep of the Phillies with an 8-7 win. That's an issue general manager Ruben Amaro is out to address.
But lately, sloppy play, uncharacteristic for the Phillies, has been a factor in their worst stretch of the season. And Manuel can't tolerate much of that. Yet, they battled, pulling ahead in the fifth inning, and tying the score at 7 with a pair of runs in the bottom of the eighth, so Manuel couldn't fault them for being listless.
Also, the Phillies are banged up and their bullpen seems gassed. Manuel backed away from a clubhouse eruption. For now.
"I've been thinking about that for a couple days, to tell you the truth," Manuel said when asked if it was time to have a loud and lively chat with his players. "But at the same time, the way things are, we're kind of beaten up. We've got guys out, and we battled back. . . . I don't know if it's the right time to go in there and start screaming and hollering and throwing things. But don't get me wrong. I'm headed that way, I guess."
To give their weary bullpen a break, the Phillies needed Joe Blanton, their most effective starter of late, to continue to gobble up innings. But Blanton, who had a 2.00 earned run average in his previous four starts, couldn't make it out of the sixth inning.
So it was up to the bullpen to hold on to a 5-3 lead after five innings. It didn't. Chan Ho Park allowed one of his inherited runners to score after coming in for Blanton, and J.C. Romero did the same in the seventh. Clay Condrey faced five batters and allowed two runs in the eighth. One was unearned when usually reliable third baseman Pedro Feliz booted a grounder that could have led to a double play.
"That play hurt," Manuel said. "We've been making a lot of mistakes on defense and we've also been making some mental mistakes. Pedro, he usually handles those balls.
"But I think we got an indication the bullpen might definitely be tired."
Early in the game, it appeared that the Phillies had not gotten their wake-up call. Toronto's Marco Scutaro walked to start the third inning. As Blanton walked off the mound and held the ball, Scutaro bolted for second before the next pitch. No one was covering second. Vernon Wells doubled him home to give Toronto a 3-1 lead.
"What I saw was [Scutaro] was very heads-up and it looked like Joe kind of came off the mound and kind of dropped his head," Manuel said. "That was not being very alert."
"It was one of those things where he made a good play and everybody was kind of sleeping or whatnot," Ryan Howard said. "More than just the pitcher was napping on that."
In the eight inning, Greg Dobbs hit a pinch-hit homer and Shane Victorino singled home Jimmy Rollins, who had three hits including a homer, and it was 7-7. But with Chase Utley at the plate, Victorino tried to steal second and was thrown out.
"I think the reason he didn't make it is he didn't get off to a good start," Manuel said.
Then former Phillie Rod Barajas gave the Blue Jays the eventual winning run with a solo homer in the ninth off Ryan Madson.
The game ended with John Mayberry Jr., who homered earlier, popping out to second base with two on.