Paul Hagen: Some theories on Phillies offensive slide

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The Phillies have scored a grand total of 10 times in the last nine games. (Wilfredo Lee/AP file photo)

ATLANTA - The 1964 Los Angeles Dodgers were a bad offensive team. How bad? So bad that when righthander Don Drysdale, who was away from the team, heard that teammate Sandy Koufax had pitched a no-hitter, he asked, "Did he win it?"

Those Dodgers were never this futile.

The 1906 Chicago White Sox were a bad offensive team. How bad? So bad that they earned a nickname - The Hitless Wonders - that has endured for more than a century.

Those Sox were never this wretched.

Every passing game now, with every new depth that's explored, the whole that's-baseball-we've-been-through-this-before-everything-is-going-to-be-just-fine prepackaged explanation gets a little more stale.

The Phillies are a team that has been to the World Series the last 2 years and has pretensions of a three-peat. A team that had five regulars make the All-Star team last year and had five at the top of the balloting in the first results released last week. A team with a payroll pushing $140 million.

And also a team that, even after yesterday's virtual run-producing explosion in a 9-3 loss to the Braves at Turner Field, has scored a grand total of 10 times in the last nine games. That's awful no matter how hard you try to paint a happy face on it. Dodgers and White Sox teams that became renowned for their lack of punch never scored that seldom in a comparable span.

This really isn't amusing anymore. But even Charlie Manuel, who got himself ejected in the third inning, couldn't help but laugh at the absurdity of it all.

"Let me put it to you like this. It seems like a long time since I saw us score 5, 6, 7, 8 runs," the manager said. "If you watch one of our games, most of the time we're going to score five runs or better. Five runs is kind of what you expect. And all of a sudden we have trouble scoring one run.

"I heard somebody say [nine] games. It seems like it's been months. Something's got to break for us."

Still waiting . . .

Maybe waking up in second place this morning will be the jolt they need. In the meantime, here are a couple of theories in answer to the question, what in the name of Steve Jeltz is going on here?

The butterfly effect. The Toronto Blue Jays went into Fenway Park with a 27-14 record on May 19, 2009. That night, they faced Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, who shut them down, 2-1.

The Jays went on to lose nine straight and manager Cito Gaston blamed it on his hitter's swings having gotten discombobulated from facing the knuckler.

Well, the Phillies have played seven games now since Wakefield beat them at Citizens Bank Park. But, in the next game, they saw another knuckleballer, R.A. Dickey of the Mets. Does that mean that they will be messed up for twice as long?

Of course, that doesn't explain why Daisuke Matsuzaka had a no-hitter going against them with two outs in the eighth the night before Wakefield took the mound.

Honesty isn't always the best policy. The Phillies were batting .271 as a team and averaging 5.41 runs per game before the Colorado Rockies alleged that bullpen coach Mick Billmeyer was using binoculars to steal the signs and then letting the Phillies hitters know what was coming.

Since then, .237 and 3.33.

Disclaimer: The Phillies strongly deny they would commit such a dastardly deed.

Bench-pressed: Jimmy Rollins has played in only a handful of games. Placido Polanco has been playing with a sore left elbow since being hit by a pitch early in the season. Catcher Carlos Ruiz has been hampered by a sore knee and shoulder.

That doesn't fully explain, though, why the team's big boppers have suddenly gone quiet. Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth haven't homered since May 21, Chase Utley since the day before that.

Really, though, the best the Phillies can fall back on at the moment is that their situation has to get better because there's no way it can get worse.

Why, the 1908 Cardinals somehow managed to score just seven times in 10 games between the back end of a doubleheader on July 27 and Aug. 4. You could look it up. Of course, St. Louis set a major league record for the fewest runs scored a season (372) in the process and was shut out 33 times. These are not marks to which the Phillies aspire.

The real danger here, of course, is that the rest of the team begins pressing when a lineup goes dormant. The pitchers try to make every pitch perfect. The fielders feel as though they have to make every play.

That may have started to kick in yesterday. Starter Joe Blanton gave up three runs in the bottom of the first, Howard and Ross Gload were charged with errors.

One of these days, surely, they will break out of it. Maybe tonight. Or maybe not. Pitching for the Braves is Tim Hudson. In his last six starts he's 4-0 with a 1.59 earned run average.

Send e-mail to hagenp@phillynews.com.