BOSTON - The fans called for Charlie Manuel, and the 69-year-old Phillies manager obliged. He signed some autographs and posed for a photo Monday on the Fenway Park dirt. He sauntered back toward the Phillies dugout until two young ladies cooed.
For the next 10 minutes, Manuel greeted a procession of people who received a surprise attraction during their stadium tour. "You look much younger than you do on TV," one woman told him. A boy walked past and said to his father, "Charlie is so tall." Manuel loved every second.
These days, happiness is fleeting for Manuel. The game, a 9-3 loss to the Red Sox, was a nightmare. It was over by the third inning because Tyler Cloyd served meatball after meatball. But Manuel and everyone else in the visiting dugout was forced to watch all 3 hours and 26 minutes.
Alfredo Aceves, a pitcher with an 8.20 ERA bumped into the Boston rotation at the last minute, shuttered the Phillies for six innings. Manuel's team cannot hit, it cannot pitch, and it cannot field.
The Phillies (24-27) are three games under .500 and 13-22 against teams not named Mets or Marlins. They have scored three or fewer runs in 57 percent of their games. They have lost 12 games by five or more runs.
"They beat us and it's behind us," Manuel said. "Nothing we can do about it."
Cloyd was miserable. He was raised a Red Sox fan in Nebraska and always wanted to see Fenway Park. When Dustin Pedroia, the third batter he opposed, rapped a two-run homer inside the Pesky Pole, Cloyd had his taste of this unique building.
Boston ransacked him for nine hits and six runs in 21/3 innings. Five hits were for extra bases. Cloyd did not throw a pitch harder than 87 m.p.h. and the Red Sox pelted the ball to right field. He is prone to these nights because the line between success and failure is thin without overpowering stuff.
"It just wasn't happening tonight, Cloyd said.
Any deficit is debilitating for this Phillies offense. Manuel tinkered with his lineup because he wanted "to mess around." He slid a sinking Michael Young into the second spot and slotted Jimmy Rollins third. That pushed Ben Revere to the top.
The changes did nothing, even against Aceves. He pitched because Clay Buchholz, the American League's ERA leader, slept funny and the area around his collarbone was sore. Aceves had permitted 17 earned runs on 26 hits in 181/3 innings. He silenced the Phillies. Afterward, Boston planned to remove him from its roster.
Even Erik Kratz's third-inning home run was a reminder of anguish. Twenty-four of the team's last 26 home runs have come with no one on base. That will happen with a .303 team on-base percentage.
Ben Revere made a sensational catch when he crashed into a steel gate on the center-field wall. He had postgame X-rays on his left elbow. They were negative, but Revere expects soreness Tuesday.
The holes are limitless. Domonic Brown was one bright spot. He bashed his 10th homer. Maybe the next lineup alteration is to move him higher.
Michael Young is 0 for his last 22. A sixth-inning single by Ryan Howard snapped a grisly stretch of eight plate appearances; six were strikeouts and two resulted in double plays. Delmon Young's batting average plunged to .213.
All of it adds to mounting frustration for Manuel, managing in the final year of his contract. The Phillies were a .500 team a season ago and have spent weeks striving for that mark in 2013. It must make Manuel - and some of his players - wonder about their future.
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