LOS ANGELES - As the zeros piled up Monday night, the majority of the Phillies gravitated toward the top step of the first-base dugout at Dodger Stadium. They had to get a better look at this.
At least the Phillies were saved from humiliation when Shane Victorino hit a 95-m.p.h. Hiroki Kuroda sinker to right in the eighth inning. It was their first and only hit of the night. They lost to the Dodgers, 3-0, a deflating start to this three-game series.
Over the weekend, the Phillies swept the San Diego Padres (the team with the best record in the league) and traveled two hours north in California with renewed confidence. But there remains this small issue: The offense is not doing much these days.
Was this the wake-up call it needed?
Just once in their last seven games had the Phillies scored more than three runs. But they got by. The Phils had won three of those games - all against the Padres - but the offense's struggles were still on Charlie Manuel's mind before the game.
Manuel split up Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in the lineup Monday. That did little. Howard was 0 for 3 with two pop-ups. Utley was 0 for 4.
"We definitely need for him and Ryan to get hot," Manuel said before the loss.
But it goes beyond that.
All of the Phillies' regulars except Jayson Werth, Carlos Ruiz and Placido Polanco are performing below their career numbers in OPS. Some are worse than others, like Howard (.839 in 2010 vs. .944 career) and Utley (.811 vs. .894). But Jimmy Rollins is 54 points below his career OPS. Raul Ibanez is 52 points below his and Victorino is 26. Polanco is nearing a career high in strikeouts and has fallen into a funk after momentarily leading the league in hitting earlier this month.
In other words, a no-hitter wouldn't be that surprising against this lineup.
"The lineup we have on the field tonight, that's our lineup," Manuel said afterward. "If that lineup doesn't hit, we're in trouble.
"It seems like we go five innings real quick. Nothing happens in five innings. We don't do too much. We make the game real short."
The Phillies have been shut out 11 times this season, the most since 1998.
Kuroda was the second Japanese starter to take a no-hitter into the eighth against the Phillies this season. Boston's Daisuke Matsuzaka did it at Citizens Bank Park on May 22. It was broken up by Juan Castro with two outs in the eighth. On Aug. 13, the Phillies were one-hit by the Mets' R.A. Dickey. The lone hit came from pitcher Cole Hamels.
"He's the kind of guy, when he has his stuff working, he's tough to hit," Victorino said of Kuroda.
"He was aggressive," Manuel said. "He was more aggressive than he has been against us. He threw more fastballs. We got in some hitter's counts, but we chased some fastballs up."
The last time the Phillies faced Kuroda, he couldn't pitch out of the second inning at Citizens Bank Park. That was Game 3 of the National League Championship Series last season. Kuroda allowed six runs in 11/3 innings and Phillies fans happily serenaded him as he made the walk of shame to the dugout.
This time, he received a standing ovation from the Dodger Stadium crowd when Joe Torre pulled him with two outs in the eighth. After Victorino singled, the Phillies had the tying run at the plate. Kuroda struck out Carlos Ruiz.
Torre brought in Hong-Chih Kuo to face pinch-hitter Domonic Brown. Manuel countered with Mike Sweeney, who grounded the first pitch he saw to shortstop to end the inning.
At least Roy Halladay avoided the ignominious distinction of throwing a no-hitter and having one thrown against him in the same season. Halladay allowed 10 hits in seven innings.
"I felt like I was a little sloppy all night," he said.
The Dodgers had two runs but no hard-hit balls off Halladay - until the fifth inning. That's when Rod Barajas (of course) burned the Phillies yet again. He lined a home run just over the left-field wall to make it 3-0.
Since the Phillies let Barajas walk as a free agent following the 2007 season, he has eight home runs in 11 games against his former team.
That was hardly demoralizing considering what else happened Monday. Manuel's team, known so well for its offense, is not hitting as the calendar turns from August to September and a pennant race intensifies.
The Phillies must only hope Monday was a low point.
Contact staff writer Matt Gelb at 215-854-2928 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow on Twitter @magelb.