NEW YORK - Charlie Manuel said it was time for a reminder. After the Phillies were shut out, 5-0, for the second day in a row by the New York Mets, the manager closed the clubhouse for a brief meeting with his beleaguered team Wednesday night.
This team, known in recent years for its resilience and ability to outslug anyone when the time came, has lost its way in late May.
The pep talk lasted fewer than 10 minutes. There was no yelling, Shane Victorino said. The manager didn't rip anyone.
"I wanted to say something," Manuel said. "I felt like it was time."
And afterward, for a team that hasn't scored in 37 of its last 38 innings, at least a small sense of positivity was instilled by Manuel.
"We're capable of more," leftfielder Raul Ibanez said. "I think you're going to start seeing that."
It's hard to go anywhere but up for the Phillies right now.
For the first time since Aug. 7-8, 2008, the Phillies were shut out in consecutive games. And it was the first time the Phillies had been shut out by the same team in two straight games since Arizona did it on Sept. 11-12, 1999.
Incredibly, opposing starters have thrown 28 straight scoreless innings against the Phillies during the four-game losing streak. And it's not as if the Phils have faced aces: Daisuke Matsuzaka and Tim Wakefield of the Red Sox, and the Mets' R.A. Dickey and, now, Hisanori Takahashi have shut down the offense.
And if Wakefield hadn't told Red Sox manager Terry Francona he was too tired to pitch the ninth inning Sunday - reliever Ramon Ramirez gave up three runs - the Phillies could be staring at an even worse streak.
After Tuesday's loss, Manuel was perturbed. He called out his team for its lack of energy. On Wednesday, he was diplomatic.
"We play every day," Manuel said. "We play them one at a time. We put everything we've got into that game. If we do that, that's what works for us. We've been doing that for four years now. That's what makes us go. How we play baseball, the energy we have, who we have, that's why 45,000 people come to Citizens Bank Park every night to see us play.
"If the energy and effort changes - and we slack off and lose games - that crowd is not going to be there."
That was likely similar to the message for his players.
"No reaming," Victorino said. "No yelling at anybody. Just understanding he wants us to go out there and if we're going to lose, lose the right way. Keep our heads up. Keep plugging along."
Ryan Howard declined comment. Starting pitcher Joe Blanton, who allowed five runs in 51/3 innings (his shortest outing of the season), offered only a brief observation.
"Not much to say about that game," he said.
In the sixth, the Phillies had two runners on for the first time all game. Chase Utley singled to right and Victorino was held at third by Perlozzo. Ryan Howard struck out on four pitches. Jayson Werth hit two long foul balls off a tiring Takahashi. But the 35-year-old Japanese lefthander induced a fly out to right on his 94th pitch of the sweltering night.
That was the last threat.
"We're not very good right now," hitting coach Milt Thompson said. "We need to get a lead and go from there."
Without prompting, Manuel spit out this fact: There are 117 games left. The Phillies remain in first place and have one of the most talented rosters in the league.
But 45 games into 2010, Manuel decided his team needed some positive reinforcement.
"We know what is expected of us and what we expect of ourselves," Manuel said. "We know how it's supposed to be done. The reminder is what we're out here working for."