CINCINNATI - Billy Hamilton sprinted around the diamond until he reached Homer Bailey near third base. Fireworks erupted Sunday at Great American Ball Park while a Reds pitcher - whose two-run single ignited a nightmarish fifth inning - scored on a slap-hitting outfielder's home run. This is how the 36th loss, 4-1 to Cincinnati, looked for the Phillies.
There is no end in sight; they are on pace to lose 96 games.
The Phillies have the worst record in the National League at 25-36. They lost five of six on the road in the last week and 22 of their previous 32 games overall. At least they cannot lose Monday, the team's first day off in three weeks.
"The key to turn it around is everybody has to have the same mentality," Carlos Ruiz said. "Not one, two, or three guys. And, as a team, we have to stay together and we have to believe we can turn around everything."
The catcher implied the bond among these moribund Phillies is not strong. Is that true?
"I know that everybody tries to to do their best," Ruiz said.
There are signs of distress beyond the dreadful baseball. Manager Ryne Sandberg gathered his roster in Washington for a meeting before the first game of this horrid road trip. He stressed urgency then. After Sunday's loss, Sandberg said, "This is considered early in the season." When, then, is it no longer early?
"Well, we still haven't had a hot streak," Sandberg said. "I believe there is a hot streak in there. If we could put together two or three weeks or a month with a hot streak, we can chip away and get back."
The Phillies have not produced a winning streak of more than three games in a year's time. The manager tried his best to hide his emotions Sunday.
"I see the potential every now and then," he said. "We just need to be more consistent with putting everything together."
The Phillies have hit .228 in their last 32 games. They averaged 3.7 runs per game in that span. The offense generated a first-and-third situation Sunday with one out in the fourth. A weak grounder by Cesar Hernandez led to the third Phillies runner eliminated at home in two days.
That increased the pressure on rookie righthander David Buchanan. Things fell apart in the fifth. Todd Frazier lashed a leadoff single. Zack Cozart pelted a one-out double to right, and that prompted the Phillies to bring in the infield with Bailey at the plate. (Had they scored a second run, the infield may have been positioned as normal.)
Bailey, the 28-year-old pitcher with a hitter's name, does not wear batting gloves. He entered the day a career .164 hitter with two RBIs since the start of the 2013 season. Buchanan threw him a meaty curveball. Bailey slapped it past a diving Jimmy Rollins for two runs.
"Just missed my spot," Buchanan said. "Bailey just found a hole."
Hamilton worked a full count. He is known for his speed, so much so that the Phillies pinch at the corners every time he bats. But Buchanan elevated a change-up right into Hamilton's swing path. It landed 348 feet from home plate in right field.
Buchanan, like most young starters, has not yet solved a major-league lineup the second time through the order. The opposition has a .534 OPS in the first three innings against Buchanan. But from the fourth through the sixth innings, that rises to a .997 OPS. His ERA is 6.08; four runs in six innings actually lowered the 6.11 ERA he lugged into the game.
The buses for the airport departed at 4:50 p.m., and a day to relax awaited. Buchanan packed his red Phillies bag, which included two gloves with "Romans 8:31" stitched onto the leather. That was a Bible verse worth contemplating: "What, then, shall we say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?"
BY THE NUMBERS
Phillies baserunners thrown out at home in the last two games.
Phillies' record at home. They start a six-game homestand on Tuesday.
Days since Cliff Lee (elbow) has thrown a baseball.
With 2,230 hits, Jimmy Rollins is five away from breaking Mike Schmidt's franchise record.
First hit: Sept. 17, 2000, vs. Florida at Veterans Stadium: a third-inning triple off Chuck Smith.