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Matthew Leach

Run would go long way toward settling Phils' future

Leach: Run could change Phils' future

Run would go long way toward settling Phils' future
The second half of the season started just like the first half finished for the suddenly sinking Phillies: with a loss. And so for another day, the questions will be the same, and the search for answers just as frustrating.

A year after losing a total of 60 games in six months, Philadelphia has lost 46 in three months. An 11-1 defeat to the Mets before a packed house at Citi Field was the Phils' sixth straight loss, dropping them 12 games out of first place in the National League East.

Reports have begun to surface -- reports staunchly denied by general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., it should be noted -- that the team is pondering being a seller rather than a buyer at the non-waiver Trade Deadline. There's no doubt that Cole Hamels and Shane Victorino would draw major interest if they were to hit the market, and both can be free agents at the end of the year.

If players Victorino and Hamels want to be wearing a Phillies uniform come Aug. 1, they can help make it happen by helping propel the reigning National League East champions back into contention. Hamels is enjoying a typically excellent season, but he's one of few.

Among the Phillies who have stayed healthy, many are enduring down years at the plate or on the mound. Little has gone right for a team that hasn't missed the postseason since 2006. So Victorino knows that there's no verbal message he can send Amaro that would have near the impact of a hot streak by a team he feels is fully capable of one.

"If we go out there and play like we can, that should be enough," Victorino said. "Have we done it? No, unfortunately we haven't. So of course the front office is going to think that way. Is it right or wrong to think that way? No. But we've given them every opportunity to think that way because we haven't played up to our capabilities.

"We haven't done it on the field. I'm not just talking about we, I'm talking about I. Myself included in this we. I haven't been a part of that life and showing that we can be that team that's capable of winning. We've just got to focus on that. We can do it."

They can, it's true. But they haven't, and time is getting short. Chase Utley's return from injury has improved the lineup, but the Phils have yet to win since Utley was activated from the disabled list. Roy Halladay is on the way -- and that will be a big boost -- and Ryan Howard should help, too. But the hole is deep and getting deeper.

As manager Charlie Manuel said after Tuesday's loss, "[Howard] ain't going to make a difference in 11-1."

Maybe not, but he could make a difference in some of the 5-4 and 3-2 games the Phillies have been losing. The same goes for Halladay. Even if the Phillies subtract, they'll be adding in the next few weeks.

Which only magnifies the importance of the coming games. Even a modest run could reposition the Phillies in the minds of the front office. If they were to show signs of life without Halladay and Howard, it provides optimism that with those players in the fold, more good things could follow.

"There's not going to be two bigger acquisitions than those two guys coming back," Victorino said. "So that in itself brings some reassurance. But we can't say, 'OK, when those guys get back, they're going to be the answer.' We can't focus on that.

"I think what's frustrating for the front office is you're hoping these guys come back and take the team and go in the right direction, but how much longer can they wait in regard to not having those guys? It's us going out there and winning games and keeping us in position to when those guys get back, to take it to the next level."

But the pressure is on now, regardless of the deadline. This team is built to win now. Players like Halladay, Cliff Lee and Jonathan Papelbon chose to sign long-term deals with the Phillies in large part because they expected to play in October on a yearly basis. No matter what happens in the coming weeks, that expectation is very much in jeopardy.

"We need to win, period, and I don't think it has anything to do with the Deadline," Lee said. "Not for us. It might be for the front office or whoever makes those decisions. But for us as competitors and as a team, we definitely need to start turning it around soon."

Matthew Leach is a writer for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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