ATLANTA - Charlie Manuel watched his team fall into second place from the visitors' clubhouse today at Turner Field.
Ejected in the third inning for arguing a disputed hit batter, Manuel had long changed out of his uniform by the time the Atlanta Braves put the finishing touches on a 9-3 thumping of the Phillies.
Wearing a gray undershirt and blue shorts with his high red socks, Manuel took his place in front of the big-screen TV in the clubhouse during the later innings. He sent a runner up the tunnel to the dugout if he wanted certain moves made.
His team remained helpless.
"Something's got to break for us," Manuel said.
He went nose-to-nose with home plate umpire Larry Vanover in the third to take off some steam. But after the game, Manuel was calm. He even laughed at a few questions from reporters, because, well, he's heard the same thing for quite some time now.
In their last nine games, the Phillies have scored 10 runs. They have not scored more than five runs in a game since May 17.
"It seems like we've gone a couple months," Manuel said.
The Phils have gone 13 straight games with fewer than 10 hits, the longest such streak since 1983.
At least they avoided another shutout today.
In the seventh, the Phillies showed some life with four straight doubles by Raul Ibanez, Carlos Ruiz, Wilson Valdez, and Ben Francisco. That led to three runs and cut the Atlanta lead to 6-3. It marked the first time in seven games that the Phillies scored more than once in an inning.
But in the bottom of the seventh, lefthander Antonio Bastardo put two men on before Chad Durbin allowed a three-run home run to Atlanta first baseman Troy Glaus.
"It's pretty frustrating right now," said starter Joe Blanton, who allowed six runs in six innings. "It seems like everything that can go wrong does."
The offensive slump boiled over to the rest of the team today. Blanton was far from sharp and the bullpen sputtered.
In the field, Ross Gload dropped a fly ball that led to an unearned run in the first. Ryan Howard couldn't get in front of a grounder in the third that led to another unearned run.
The Phillies have made 12 errors in their last nine games.
"We're all frustrated," Ibanez said.
They're in second place in the NL East now, too. The Braves capped a 20-8 May and have won six in a row. Atlanta is in first place this late in the season for the first time since 2005.
The Phillies, who began May a half-game behind the then-first-place Mets, end the month in the same spot, just looking up at a different team.
Manuel, who said on Sunday that he did not want to make changes in the lineup for the sake of making changes, did just that today. He batted two lefties, Gload and Greg Dobbs, at the top of the order and moved Shane Victorino down to No. 5. Jayson Werth sat out for the second time in four games.
"I was trying to find a way to get some runs," Manuel said.
Just like every other tactic in the last two weeks, it failed.
"We can still achieve where we want to go," Manuel said. "That's what you have to look at. What we've been in, it seems like we've been in for a while. But at the same time, you have to come every day and play it out. Keep the same path we've always taken.
"We'll see what happens."