The Phillies finished a 3-4 homestand Sunday at Citizens Bank Park with a lopsided 8-3 interleague loss to the Boston Red Sox that featured another in a recent series of lackluster offensive performances.
Afterward, Charlie Manuel had a simple explanation for his suddenly struggling offense.
"That's baseball," the Phillies' manager said.
Told you it was simple. If you're looking for a good reason as to why the offense disappeared after opening the homestand with a 12-2 pounding of Pittsburgh, you'll have to look elsewhere.
All we will give you here are the facts.
After the opening-game rout of the Pirates, the Phillies batted .193 (36 for 187) as a team and scored a total of 15 runs in the next six games. Those numbers were padded by three inconsequential runs in the bottom of the ninth Sunday when the game had long been decided.
Shane Victorino batted .130 (3 for 23) after the first game of the homestand. Placido Polanco batted .150 (3 for 20). Jimmy Rollins hit .214 (3 for 14) and landed back on the disabled list with a strained right calf. Carlos Ruiz went hitless in 13 at-bats.
All of this occurred against six starting pitchers who were a combined 10-18 before they went to the mound against the Phillies.
"I can't explain it," Manuel said. "Sometimes you can go out there and some guy can stand out there and get you out. That's the game. Human nature plays the game."
Through 43 games, the Phillies have the best record in the National League, the inferior of the two leagues, as this interleague business and the All-Star Game annually confirm. Their standing and track record are legitimate reasons not to be concerned.
"I never worry about this team offensively," leftfielder Raul Ibanez said. "At any moment, things will click and we'll explode and we'll be the same team that you have seen for the last few years. We have guys that are good about putting the bad days behind them and looking ahead."
The guy who stood on the mound and got the Phillies out Sunday was 43-year-old knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, who only got the starting assignment because the Red Sox had to place Josh Beckett on the disabled list earlier in the week.
Wakefield's knuckler for much of this season had moved about as well as Jerry Springer when he made his ill-advised 2006 appearance on Dancing With the Stars. Wakefield went into the game with a 0-2 record and 5.31 ERA. He came out only after eight scoreless innings.
"Tough" is how Greg Dobbs described the veteran pitcher. "We just don't face guys like that too often."
The Phillies get another shot at a knuckleballer Tuesday night at Citi Field when they'll face the New York Mets' R.A. Dickey in his second start of the season. It's almost impossible for something like that to happen in an era with only three active knuckleballers left in the big leagues. The other is Charlie Haeger, who is on the disabled list with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Jayson Werth, who had one of the Phillies' five hits off Wakefield, said he likes the challenge of facing a knuckleball pitcher because it reminds him of another kind of game that he used to love playing as a kid.
"It's like backyard Wiffle Ball," Werth said. "Swing hard in case you hit it."
The Phillies swung hard against Wakefield and had little to show for it by the end of the afternoon. But this loss wasn't only about bad swings.
The defense was also inadequate, which played a part in staff ace Roy Halladay's briefest and least effective outing with his new team. Halladay allowed eight hits and seven runs in 52/3 innings, but was badly betrayed by the defense in the fourth inning when Dobbs let what should have been an inning-ending double-play off Adrian Beltre's bat slide through his legs.
"I just missed it," Dobbs said.
Two innings later, Halladay's afternoon ended after a poor decision by shortstop Juan Castro allowed an extra run to score on an infield single by Jacoby Ellsbury. That play put the Phillies a touchdown and extra point behind, an insurmountable lead with the offense in a terrible funk.
Yes, that's baseball.