"It was a tough loss," starting pitcher Kyle Kendrick said. "Obviously, every game from now on is tough."
It was even tougher about an hour after Carlos Ruiz grounded out to third with the tying run 90 feet away, as the Braves won yet another walk-off game, 6-3, in 12 innings against the Cardinals. With 19 games to play, the Phillies are tied for first place.
On Saturday against Mike Pelfrey, the Phillies' bats were silent. Seeking to score seven runs in five straight games for the first time since 1980, the Phils were held scoreless through seven.
In the ninth, they had a chance. Sweeney's double hit high off the left-field wall. John Mayberry Jr. pinch-ran, but Manuel was left with a difficult situation at the plate.
Without a healthy Jimmy Rollins and having already used his only other infielder, Greg Dobbs, Manuel had to send Wilson Valdez up with Mayberry on second and one out.
Initially, Ruiz emerged from the dugout to hit, but Manuel called him back. Had Sweeney not doubled, Manuel said he would have sent Ben Francisco up to go for a home run.
But it briefly entered Manuel's mind to let Ruiz hit for Valdez. Had the catcher come through with a hit to tie the game, he likely would have played third and Placido Polanco would have moved to shortstop.
"But we didn't go that route," Manuel said.
If anything, Kendrick put the Phillies in a good enough position to win. It was the bullpen - namely Jose Contreras and J.C. Romero - who allowed crucial tack-on runs in the seventh inning that put the game out of reach.
Kendrick, who was not named the starter until Friday, allowed two runs in five innings. Manuel removed his starter after 64 pitches so Dobbs could pinch-hit in an attempt to spark the offense. Dobbs struck out looking.
The righthander allowed a first-inning run and then another in the third when he served up a solo home run to Jose Reyes, who had not homered since Aug. 15, the last time the Mets faced Kendrick.
Kendrick said he was pleased with the outing and expected to make another start. The Phillies likely will need two more starts from their fifth starter this season.
"Obviously it's out of my control," Kendrick said. "Probably. I don't see why not. There's an off day so they can skip me. But it's up to them. I don't think I pitched my way out of it today, that's for sure."
Manuel was noncommittal.
"I don't know," he said. "We have five starters. We'll just monitor our pitching as we go along."
Kendrick said he felt stronger in his last start at Citizens Bank Park against Milwaukee a week ago, when he allowed five runs in four innings - even though this time he had an extra day between starts and threw a lighter bullpen session than normal because of uncertainty as to whether he'd start.
His stuff was worse this time, but the results were better.
Said Kendrick: "It's a strange game."
Contact staff writer Matt Gelb
at 215-854-2928 or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @magelb.