CHARLIE MANUEL didn't close the clubhouse doors and talk to his team. The thought crossed his mind. It might happen soon, unless the lineup becomes more productive in the next couple of days.

If he decides to say something, it won't be a chewing out. Not with shortstop Jimmy Rollins on the disabled list and a couple of guys banged up and a couple more on the roster who were ticketed to spend the season at Triple A Lehigh Valley. The Phillies' manager knows better than that. It will be closer to Knute Rockne than, say, vintage 1980 Dallas Green.

In fact, he's likely to pretty much repeat the same things he has been saying out loud all homestand as the offense fell into the doldrums. Which is that slumps are a part of baseball but that, at the same time, the important thing is to go out and be focused and grind it out each and every game.

"I can't explain it. That's baseball," he said after another lackluster offensive performance resulted in an 8-3 loss to the Red Sox on a gray afternoon in front of another sellout crowd at Citizens Bank Park. "Sometimes a guy can stand out there and get you out. It's hard to explain. That's the game. Human nature plays the game. All those stats I've got in there, I look at them every day. But, at the same time, human nature still plays the game.

"You've still got to go out and play. You've got to hit every day and you've got to field every day and you've got to pitch every day. And if we do that more consistently than anybody else in our league, more than likely we're going to win."

And if they don't . . .

The Phillies go back on the road starting tomorrow night after having lost four of their last six at home. In those half-dozen games, they batted .193 as a team. They were shut out once and held to a single run twice.

Daisuke Matsuzaka had a no-hitter going with two outs in the eighth Saturday night before Juan Castro broke it up with a bloop single. Ageless knuckleballer Tim Wakefield blanked them for eight innings yesterday before they scored three cosmetic runs off reliever Ramon Ramirez in the ninth.

It's nice to be considered one of the most potent lineups in baseball. But reputation and what you've done in the past doesn't matter unless you do it again today. And tomorrow. And the day after that.

In the six games before their current malaise, the Phillies were clicking. They batted .326 as a team and averaged 7.83 runs per game. They had more than 10 hits in each game.

Since then: Single digits in hits each game.

That's baseball. But that doesn't mean Manuel has to like it or accept it.

"Sometimes you don't hit," he said. "We faced three guys in Arizona [Kris Benson, Ian Kennedy, Rodrigo Lopez] we felt like we were going to score runs on. And we didn't do it. That's part of it.

"Usually, when you don't hit and you don't score, it looks like some of your life is gone. Hitting and scoring runs, that generates electricity, it generates attitude, it generates everything about it. You feel better, you throw better, you catch the ball better, you run the balls down better, everything about it. When you don't score and you don't hit, the game is not too much fun."

The Phillies hitters seemed totally baffled by Wakefield. He outpitched Phillies ace Roy Halladay, who was somewhat better than his line - seven runs (six earned) in 5 2/3 innings - suggested.

Adding a layer of intrigue, the Phillies almost never see a knuckleballer. There just aren't that many in baseball these days. But the Mets announced yesterday that knuckleballer R.A. Dickey will start against them tomorrow night at Citi Field.

Even with Rollins back on the disabled list, the Phillies should be a better hitting team than they have been in the last week.

"I really don't worry about this team offensively much, because at any moment everything will click and we'll explode and we'll be the same team everyone has seen for the last few years," said leftfielder Raul Ibanez. "Obviously, you'd like to be scoring runs and winning games. The last few days we haven't done that. This team's been really good about putting the bad days behind us, looking ahead and taking care of business."

Past performance suggests that Ibanez is correct.

But if things don't turn around soon, it wouldn't be surprising for Manuel to remind them that past performance doesn't help you win today. Or tomorrow. Or the day after that.