With the early four-run lead and four-time All-Star Cliff Lee on the mound, the Phillies seemed primed to end a nine-game road losing streak. But when Lee left the game after the sixth inning, the bullpen proved otherwise. An old Phillie, Jayson Werth, hit the decisive two-run homer off Zach Miner in the seventh as Philadelphia lost, 8-5, to Washington at Nationals Park.
"It's tough," Manuel said. "You've got to fight through it, though. We've got a game tomorrow."
The Phillies have now lost eight of their past 10 games. After winning 102 games just two years ago, they are now 52-64.
"The bottom line is, we're not getting it done and we're losing a lot of games," Manuel said. "We walk a lot of guys, and we fall behind, and we have to bring the ball over the plate and when we do, something happens for them. That's basically the bottom line."
Lee threw six innings and allowed just three earned runs on seven hits while walking two and striking out six. Though he was in control for most of the game, he was also the victim of a persistent Nationals offense. Washington fouled off pitches and worked to raise Lee's pitch count. Manuel said that the southpaw was "spent" after six innings.
"That was a tough combination with them having tough at-bats and fouling off pitches and working counts," Lee said. "I felt like I made some good pitches that were either just off the plate or called balls, too. But that happens. That's part of it. It was just a game where I had to grind and battle."
Lee left with a one-run lead and turned the game over to the bullpen, which entered the game with the worst combined ERA (4.42) in the National League.
"I feel like when I'm out, my job's done," Lee said. "It's up to the guys coming in behind me to keep it where it's at."
Jake Diekman and Miner couldn't do that. Diekman pitched first, walking pinch-hitter Steve Lombardozzi before Denard Span dropped a sacrifice bunt to advance him to second. Lombardozzi then stole third base and scored on a second bunt, this time by Bryce Harper, to tie the game at 4.
Then Miner, a right-hander, entered the game with two outs to face Werth, who knocked his first pitch past the left-field foul pole -- his 1,000th career hit -- to give Washington a 6-4 lead.
"You'll take accomplishments like that as you can get them," Werth said. "But I spent a lot of time with those guys over there and I've got a lot of memories. A lot of those hits along the way came in Philly and came with those guys. So I'm sure they weren't as happy to see it as I was, but at the same time, I'm glad they were there to see it."
After a ground-rule double, an intentional walk and two singles, Miner finally got the Phillies out of the inning, trailing 8-4. A bullpen that had posted a 2.40 ERA in its past 14 games regressed to mid-season form.
"That's a confidence thing. You can see it," Manuel said. "You can see a difference in how they attack hitters and things like that. That's a confidence thing, and they feel it. They understand it. It's kind of like they fight it."
Still, there were bright sides. After mustering only four hits against Dan Haren on Friday night, the Phillies got to rookie Taylor Jordan early. Domonic Brown laced a single to center field to lead off the second inning, and Darin Ruf launched the next pitch into the left-field seats. His sixth homer of the season ended an 0-for-6 skid.
Cody Asche kept things rolling with a single, and Michael Martinez also singled to put runners on the corners with one out. Lee helped his own cause by dropping a sacrifice bunt six feet in front of the plate. Jordan threw home, Asche slid under the catcher's tag and all the runners were safe. The Phillies took a 4-0 lead when Jimmy Rollins brought home Martinez with a single in the next at-bat.
"[Ruf] is swinging the bat good," Manuel said. "Asche's getting some good swings. Michael Martinez in the last three games has hit some balls hard, best I've seen him hit. Brown, of course, he's been swinging the bat good. So those are good, positive things, and they're coming from young people."
However, the tables turned quickly. Lee gave up two runs on three hits in the fourth inning, and a third run on a single by Wilson Ramos in the sixth.
The Phillies entrusted the lead to their bullpen, then watched it quickly slip away.