RYAN BRAUN used second base as his confession booth last night. Standing on the bag in the sixth inning, the Brewers leftfielder turned to Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins and flashed back to three innings before, when he managed to track down a searing line drive on a dead sprint to rob Rollins of extra bases and the Phillies of at least one run.

"He said he didn't think he had it," Rollins said later.

Had the ball hooked out of the reach of Braun's glove, things might have turned out differently for the Phillies. Instead, it brought more of the same: Another night with too little offense that resulted in a 9-0 loss with Roy Halladay on the mound.

It is important to keep in mind that the Phillies are still 10-6 and in first place in the National League East, and that last night marked the first time this season that they have dropped back-to-back games. After the game, manager Charlie Manuel admitted that the thought of Cliff Lee taking the hill this afternoon in the series finale would ease some of the anxiety he feels about his lineup's lackluster showing.

"I'll sleep 2 hours tonight instead of none," Manuel said.

In jest, though, there is a significant amount of truth. The Phillies, who suffered through lengthy stretches of impotence last season, have not scored more than four runs in any of the last eight games. During that stretch, they have just 10 extra-base hits, a power outage that has caused their manager considerable unease.

True, the Phillies did not put a leadoff man on base in any of the nine innings last night. But the biggest problem hasn't been creating the foundation for a rally - before this two-game skid, they had placed a leadoff man on base in 28 of their previous 71 frames - it has been building something on top of that foundation.

They managed just one extra-base hit last night, a third-inning double by Shane Victorino that snapped their drought at 21 innings. After collecting 29 extra-base hits in their first eight games of the season, they have hit just 10 in their last eight. They have scored three or fewer runs in their last four games, and in eight of 16 on the season.

The good news is that they have won three of those games this year. The bad news is that, right now, they look like they will need to win a lot more.

Things might have been different if Braun had not tracked down Rollins' line drive in the third inning, when the Phillies had men on first and second and one out while trailing 2-0. Even if Placido Polanco had not scored from first base, the Phillies would have had the tying run on third base with one out and Ryan Howard at the plate. But Braun made the play, sending Polanco and Victorino scampering back to their respective bases, and Howard grounded out to end the inning.

Giving Halladay a tie game instead of a 2-0 deficit might have changed things.

"It's a different mind-set, a different feel, a different everything," Manuel said.

But the Brewers added a run in the sixth, then started a rally against Halladay in the seventh that ended with David Herndon allowing a three-run homer to Casey McGehee and Mike Zagurski allowing a two-run single to Erick Almonte. Six runs ended up crossing the plate in the frame, putting the Phillies in a 9-0 hole and leaving Halladay with his worst line of the season: six runs, 10 hits, three strikeouts and two walks in 6 innings.

Watching Halladay leave the game with runners on base was a rare sight. In his last 69 starts, the righthander has failed to complete an inning just four times.

"You always want to finish," said Halladay, who added that he did not think his 123-pitch complete game against the Nationals last week affected his game. "It makes sense at that point. It's a four-run game and you are over 100 pitches. If it's a one or two-run game, maybe it's a different story."

Nevertheless, the focus afterward was on the offense, or lack thereof. With two of their highest on-base-percentage players from a year ago on the disabled list (Chase Utley) and in Washington (Jayson Werth), the question is how they will hit.

"We will," Rollins said. "I don't question that. Jayson, that's not even part of the discussion anymore. Chase is a big part, but we've won games without him in the past. The challenge is to do it again."

For more Phillies coverage and opinion, read David Murphy's blog, High Cheese, at www.philly.com/HighCheese.

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