PHOENIX - With the uncanny wildness and uncharacteristic loss of composure in the middle innings, it would have been easy to peg the Phillies' latest defeat on Cole Hamels.
Hamels, a perennial Cy Young candidate, was locked in a pitchers' duel with Arizona's Patrick Corbin, who had 23 major league starts coming into last night. After throwing up zeros on the scoreboard in the first four innings, Hamels suddenly lost his command, and thus, control of the game.
At one point, Hamels issued four walks in the span of 12 batters.
To put that into perspective: Hamels walked four batters or more in one game in 2012 and three times in 62 starts in the last two seasons combined.
Hamels ended up with five walks on the night - one of them was intentional - and it paved the way for single runs by the Diamondbacks in the fifth and sixth innings.
"I'm not executing when I need to," Hamels said. "That definitely makes it a lot more difficult for myself to come away with a better result."
But Arizona's 2-1 win was more of an indictment of the consistently futile Phillies offense than it was with a starting pitcher who allowed two runs in six innings.
After building some mojo with back-to-back wins over the San Francisco Giants to begin their current weeklong trip out West, the Phils have dropped consecutive games as their bats have again gone limp.
"We didn't get the job done," manager Charlie Manuel said. "We were standing there, we had chances. We couldn't do it. The game is sitting right there for us."
As a result, the Phillies lost another game started by the richest pitcher in franchise history. The Phils are a stunning 1-7 in the games Hamels has started this season.
"It's disappointing that Cole can hold a team to two runs and not win the game," said Manuel, who set the record for games managed in club history last night in his 1,332nd game in a Phillies uniform. "That's tough for us. We need to win some of his games. He pitched pretty good."
Hamels hasn't been perfect - he's now walked five or more batters in two of his last three starts - but he's deserved a better fate more often than not.
After giving up 13 runs in his first two starts of the season, Hamels has a 2.41 ERA in his last six starts.
The Phillies have won only one of those games. They've scored a grand total of five runs in those five losses.
Although he was in position to point fingers all over the room, Hamels was interested only in critiquing his own game.
"For me, it's about going out and executing pitches, stopping the walks," Hamels said. "If that's where I really need to work, and if it's going to make me a more effective pitcher, than that's what I have to focus on . . . I have to correct what I can correct, and that's what's going to allow me to be a better pitcher and go help the team so we can get some wins."
Corbin, a talented lefthander who entered the night with the fifth best ERA in the National League, took a shutout into the seventh inning and held the Phils to four singles en route to victory. Corbin is 5-0 with a 1.75 ERA in seven starts this season, his second in the big leagues.
The Phillies didn't have an extra-base hit when Corbin was in the game or after he left following 6 1/3 innings. They reached third base only two times.
And they scored only once.
After 36 games, the Phillies have scored three runs or fewer in 20 of them. Not surprisingly, the Phils are 4-16 in those games.
Delmon Young and Domonic Brown had four of the Phillies' six hits. All six hits came from the bottom five spots in the lineup.
The top four hitters - Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Michael Young and Ryan Howard - were a combined 0-for-14 with four strikeouts.
Rollins may be due for a day off: he's hitting .156 (5-for-28) with six strikeouts in nine games this month.
After Hamels exited, Jeremy Horst and Phillippe Aumont combined for three scoreless innings. But keeping the game within striking distance didn't matter because the offense never struck back.
"We hung around and actually had a chance," Manuel said. "They could've scored way more runs than that and scored way more runs than we did, of course. But we were still in the game."
The Phils' best opportunity to break through came in the seventh, when Delmon Young and Carlos Ruiz both collected hits to knock Corbin out of the inning after three batters. But even when the Phils scored, they managed to kill a rally.
With the bases loaded and one out, Kevin Frandsen hit a pinch-hit, run-scoring single to shallow rightfield to cut the Diamondbacks' lead to 2-1. On the play, John Mayberry Jr., running from first to second, was forced out before reaching the base.
Rollins followed with an inning-ending pop out to short.
"I would say in order for him to be safe, he has to get a better read," Manuel said of Mayberry's base running on the pivotal play.
After sweeping the New York Mets at Citi Field two weekends ago, the Phillies have fallen into a predictable pattern: In their last 10 games, they've lost two in a row, won two in row, lost two, won two and lost two.
"We definitely haven't hit full stride," Hamels said. "We can't wait on it - we have to act on it. And I think that's kind of where we're kind of tiptoeing, we're at that sort of border we need to cross over . . . Once we're able to do that, we can take that momentum every day. It starts with one at-bat, one pitch, one game. We have to still be able to fight."
When last night's game in the desert became official in the fifth inning, Charlie Manuel stood alone in Phillies history.
The game against the Diamondbacks was the 1,332nd game Manuel has managed the Phillies in eight-plus seasons, more than any manager in franchise history. He entered the day tied with Gene Mauch.
"That means my players have been good for a long time. That's what it means," Manuel said of the accomplishment of managing the most games for a team that has been around since 1883.
Manuel became the winningest manager in Phillies in 2011. He entered play yesterday with a career record of 743-588 with the Phillies (and 963-778 overall).
"When somebody asks me about accolades, I can never say I accept all of them because there are a lot of people involved in it; it's a team thing," Manuel said. "I was a part of it. How big a part? I don't know. At the same time, I know we've been successful here. That's what we're trying to keep. This year and last year we have to play much better. Hopefully we'll get going and go where we want to go, back to a World Series."
Today on PhillyDailyNews.com: On the DNL blog, David Murphy says now is the time for the Phillies to start trying to trade Ryan Howard.