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Phillies blow lead and series to Mets

The announced crowd at Citizens Bank Park Tuesday night was 43,821.

Charlie Manuel watched the Phillies suffer their fourth loss in five games against the Mets. (David M Warren/Staff Photographer)
Charlie Manuel watched the Phillies suffer their fourth loss in five games against the Mets. (David M Warren/Staff Photographer)Read more

The announced crowd at Citizens Bank Park Tuesday night was 43,821.

As usual, that news was followed by the familiar sellout addendum, a streak that has reached 216 games.

Left unspoken by the Phillies was the fact that the latest crowd was the smallest since July 7, 2009, the date that the sellout streak began.

Also left unspoken was this: Customer satisfaction is rapidly declining.

It dwindled again on this night when the Phillies squandered a four-run lead and wasted another solid effort by a starting pitcher in a 7-4 loss to the New York Mets.

The Phillies, with their fourth loss in five games against the Mets, slipped to three games below .500 at 14-17, matching their low-water mark in this early season of mounting frustration.

"Basically, we're kind of spinning our wheels," manager Charlie Manuel said. "The teams we're playing, at times they try to give us the game and we act like we don't want to take it. We make mistakes and we give it right back to them when we have a lead."

The ballpark looked like Dodger Stadium after the seventh inning with plenty of fans leaving early. It looked like Veterans Stadium, circa 1997, by the middle of the ninth with the empty blue seats outnumbering the fans.

Manuel insisted he is not frustrated, and he said he may soon have a meeting to discuss some things. He only has one problem.

"I've been wanting to talk to them," he said. "I wanted to talk to them in San Diego, but actually at this point I don't really know what to say to them. That's kind of how I feel. I mean, I'm going to talk them. I might go over and talk to them right now, I don't know. But sooner or later I will talk to them, but right now I don't know what I want to say."

And then he seemed to find the words that might help.

"I think we're tight," he said. "I think we try too hard. That's why we chase bad balls out of the strike zone when we're ahead in the count. I think that's why we swing at first-pitch bad balls and so on. I think when we have to do something, that's how they feel - we have to do something, and we have to do it right now."

The seventh-inning sequence of events triggered the first wave of early exits, and a second straight ninth-inning bullpen meltdown pretty much emptied the place, save for a few happy Mets fans who apparently have awakened from their four-year hibernation.

Righthander Joe Blanton went to the mound in the seventh with a 4-1 lead and seemingly in control.

Even after he walked rookie Jordany Valdespin to open the inning, Blanton retired the next two batters to move within one out of getting through the seventh inning for the third straight start.

He never got that out.

Andres Torres and Kirk Nieuwenhuis delivered back-to-back singles, with the latter hit accounting for New York's second run and ending Blanton's evening.

Blanton left to a well-deserved ovation, but it was the last bit of affection the Phillies would hear from this crowd.

Chad Qualls replaced Blanton and surrendered an RBI single to David Wright.

That hit should have only cut the Phillies' lead to one, but the tying run also scored when the Phillies botched a rundown play in a variety of ways before second baseman Pete Orr made an ill-advised and errant throw that skipped past third baseman Placido Polanco. The error was the first of two for Orr and it allowed Nieuwenhuis to score.

Orr, dressed in a Flyers T-shirt before the game, also struck out with the tying run on third base and one out in the eighth inning.

"I should have made a better throw to third," Orr said.

Lefty Antonio Bastardo immediately replaced Qualls and faced the left-handed hitting Lucas Duda, but that bit of strategy backfired on Manuel, too. Duda singled home the go-ahead run and the Phillies and their fans went quietly into another not-so-good night.

The Phillies had the good fortune of facing Miguel Batista, a 41-year-old righthander who has primarily pitched out of the bullpen the last five seasons and they made the least of that opportunity.

They did build a 4-0 lead with the first two runs coming on a first-inning home run by Hunter Pence and the second two coming the following inning after some shoddy defensive play by the Mets.

"We didn't add on," Manuel said. "I felt like we had a chance to get more runs, and in a game like that usually you have to. One more run or two more runs definitely makes a huge difference in that game and we couldn't score after the second inning. They stayed around and stayed around."

By the end the seventh inning, the Phillies' lead and most of their fans were gone.