LOS ANGELES - The Phillies are back to being the hunters instead of the hunted.
Maybe it's better that way.
They certainly seemed comfortable in that role last season. The Phillies fell into second place in the National League East last night with a 3-1 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. The New York Mets hold a one-game lead over the Phillies, who opened their seven-game road trip through Los Angeles and San Diego as poorly as anybody could have imagined.
"If you want to know the truth, I think it's a good test for our team," manager Charlie Manuel said of falling out of first. "If you stay in the hunt and you battle it out and we win, I think that tells us what kind of team we are. . . . There's two ways to look at it. If we get down and we don't come back, we're not champions and we're not men."
The Dodgers, who look pretty good with Manny Ramirez in the middle of their lineup, swept the Phillies in the four-game series, their first four-game sweep over the Phils at Dodger Stadium since 1962.
Kyle Kendrick got rocked in Monday's 8-6 loss. The offense managed just one hit after the third inning in Tuesday's 4-3 setback. It managed just one hit again after the third inning in Wednesday's 7-6 loss, with the pitching staff blowing a 6-1 lead in the process.
The Phils have lost six of their last eight games. They have hit just .202 (52 for 258) in that stretch. They hit .194 (25 for 129) against the Dodgers.
Offense obviously has been a problem in this slide, and last night was no different. Before Chase Utley hit a two-out double to right field in the fourth inning, the Phillies had gone hitless in their previous 25 at-bats, dating from Wednesday.
Jayson Werth picked up the team's second hit with a leadoff double to left field in the seventh inning. He eventually scored to make it 2-1, the lone run allowed by Dodgers starter Hiroki Kuroda.
A fine performance from Brett Myers was wasted. He allowed five hits, three runs, and two walks in seven innings. He also struck out eight. In his first five starts since rejoining the rotation after a stint in the minor leagues, Myers is 2-1 with a 2.48 ERA.
So if you're looking for a silver lining, maybe it's that Myers appears to have rediscovered his game.
Meanwhile, the offense is still trying to find a way.
The Phillies hope that rediscovery begins tonight in San Diego.