Maybe Charlie Manuel was truly angry at the umpire's call. Or he was simply trying to blow off steam from the frustration that is building within the Phillies. Or he was looking to get ejected so he could be spared of watching the futility that has a vise grip on his hitters.

It was probably a combination of the three.

Regardless, the Phillies manager was thrown out by first-base umpire Larry Vanover in the eighth inning today as he disputed a call made on Jimmy Rollins, who appeared to dodge a tag by Baltimore first baseman Ty Wigginton.

"The ump said he tagged him," Manuel said after the Phillies ended one of the worst homestands in club history with a 2-1 loss to the Baltimore Orioles at Citizens Bank Park. "He said he saw it that way and I said, 'You saw it the wrong way.' "

Manuel succeeded in getting tossed, which gave him an early start on trying to determine what has come over the Phillies, who should be looking forward to getting out of town tomorrow night for a nine-game road trip.

"Wipe it away and hop on the plane and go to another venue and start winning again," said Cole Hamels, who deserved better as he allowed only two runs and struck out 10 while walking none in eight innings.

The defeat was the Phillies' sixth straight, their longest slump of the season, and it ended a 1-8 homestand, their worst since they went 1-9 from Aug. 9-19, 2004.

In the nine games against American League teams since they returned from an impressive 7-3 road trip that lifted them into first place in the NL East by four games, the Phillies batted .226. In the three games against Baltimore, they hit a paltry .184. And these aren't the Orioles of Jim Palmer, Mike Flanagan and Scott McGregor.

"This is a game of ebbs and flows, and there are some things you can't explain," said Greg Dobbs, whose second-inning home run was one of the club's four hits. For the second game in a row, Dobbs started at first base for Ryan Howard, who never made it to the ballpark after a brief hospital stay for the second time in two days.

Howard may be suffering from a sinus infection, and is being treated with antibiotics, according to club trainer Scott Sheridan. Howard, who pinch-hit Saturday night and hit a three-run homer that went to waste, was scheduled to be evaluated again on Monday by team physician Marc Harwood.

It is Manuel's job to find a remedy for what is ailing the Phillies' hitters. What he saw from O's righthander Jeremy Guthrie were a lot of hittable fastballs. Trouble was, the Phillies were watching them as well, instead of swinging at them.

"Some nights I see them swing at bad balls and chase balls if they're not getting a good ball to hit, and today I saw a team that took a lot of fastballs that looked to me like good pitches," Manuel said. "I'll have to go back and review some of the game, but it looked to me like they were throwing quite a bit of fastballs and we stood there taking them.

"Right now, we're not pitching, playing defense and hitting [at the same time]. We had the pitching today and we didn't hit. The big thing is our big guys have to start hitting."

With two of those big guys - Howard and the injured Raul Ibanez - out of the lineup, the Phillies needed Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley to bail them out. But Rollins continues to search for his stroke. He went 0 for 4 today, and batted .158 during the homestand.

Three times, Utley came up with a runner on. He went 0 for 3 with a walk and stranded Shane Victorino on second in the eighth. Utley got off to a great start during the homestand but went 2 for 19 in the last five games.

The Phils sank to 13-22 at home.

Despite their problems, the Phillies remained in first place by two games over the Mets. Lately, though, they've done nothing to deserve it.

"We're fortunate enough that everybody in our division is playing really bad," Hamels said. "But we just need to go out and win ball games and take it day in and day out."

Said Manuel, whose team is 23-9 on the road, easily the best away mark in the majors, "I think it won't hurt us to get on the road, but we've got to play better baseball than that on the road, too."

Contact staff writer Ray Parrillo at 215-854-2743