AFTER 2 months and 27 losses, last night's 4-3, it's almost paint-by-numbers.
No. 1: The Phillies don't beat lefthanded starters. They're now 5-14 against them. Last night, Randy Johnson (3-2) dealt six scoreless innings and allowed one hit for the Diamondbacks before leaving with a stiff back, which had been surgically repaired over the winter.
No. 2: The Phillies don't win one-run games: They're 3-10 now, third worst in the majors.
No. 3: A mental error or a defensive lapse here or there often hurts them. Several such plays marred the series in Florida that they might have swept instead of losing two of three. The past 3 nights, shaky play has been a constant.
Last night, pinch-runner Michael Bourn strayed too far from second base and was doubled off to end the game when Ryan Howard lined out to second.
Bourn wore the shame: "I saw the second baseman catch it, and I said, 'That [misplay] is mine.' "
There have been plenty to go around.
The Diamondbacks completed a sweep of the Phils and won their fifth of the teams' six meetings, four by one run. The Phillies might remember that when their annual September shot at the National League wild-card slot comes.
If they get that far.
After surging above .500 for the first time this season with a sweep in Atlanta, they're a game back under, looking up at the Mets, eight ahead of them in the East; the Braves, four games ahead; and tied with the Marlins. Four other NL teams have better records than the Phillies.
"I'm getting very concerned about our team," manager Charlie Manuel said. "I think we've got to go like hell. And we've got to improve."
(Can you say: Scathing team meeting before tomorrow's four-game series with the Giants?)
"It kind of nullifies the three games we won in Atlanta," said Phillies starter Jamie Moyer (5-4).
He had allowed two solo homers to Eric Byrnes through 7 1/3 innings. Mark Reynolds' two-run shot made it 4-0 with two outs in the eighth, chasing Moyer, who had thrown just 86 pitches.
The Phillies had one hit through eight but charged back against reliever Brandon Lyon in the ninth. Jimmy Rollins' two-run triple finished Lyon. Pat Burrell's one-out single off closer Jose Valverde made it 4-3 and brought Bourn, Burrell's understudy, into the game to run.
Up came Howard, who did not start because Johnson, a lefty, did.
On a 2-2 pitch, encouraged by first-base coach Davey Lopes to go if Howard got to two strikes, Bourn stole second - leaving the D-backs open to walk Howard, who took Ball 3 on the steal.
They chose not to walk him.
Howard lined out to Orlando Hudson, who was playing deep and far toward first. Hudson casually flipped to shortstop Alberto Callaspo at second with plenty of time. Bourn was almost to third base.
"Usually, I freeze on that," Bourn said. "I should know the second baseman is [overshifted] there. He's always over there. I messed up . . . That's my fault. I take the blame for that."
Nobody complained about the steal . . . much.
"I can put a hold on him there. I didn't do it," Manuel said. "I felt they would pitch Howard the same way."
So, if the steal didn't seem to matter, certainly the doubleplay recalled the other gaffes on the previous 2 nights against the Diamondbacks and the follies in Florida last week.
"Everything that went right for us in Atlanta didn't go right for us in this series," Rollins said.
They made their breaks in Atlanta by playing crisply.
They got broken by playing scattershot ball against Arizona and Florida.
"I can't explain it," Bourn said. "We have made mistakes - more mental mistakes than physical mistakes. We can try to make up for it."
It will take, said Manuel, a "six-, seven-, eight-game winning streak."
It will take changing their fortunes against lefties.
Howard, the reigning MVP, is hitting .133 against them . . . but at least he's lefthanded.
From the right side, Burrell (.180), Jimmy Rollins (.253), Carlos Ruiz (.160), Shane Victorino (.236) and Aaron Rowand (.250) are not getting it done.
"The good thing is," said Rollins, "we do have 4 months."
If it's 4 more months of one-run losses, futility against lefties and continual boneheaded plays, one game over .500 might be optimistic. *