Phillies swept out of Atlanta

Posted: July 30, 2012

ATLANTA - Clubhouse attendants stuffed the red-and-blue equipment bags into shopping carts Sunday and wheeled them to a white truck waiting in the bowels of Turner Field. They were destined for a plane to Washington, where the rest of this wretched Phillies season commences Tuesday. A flickering hope for relevancy was destroyed in a matter of three days.

The names will change, the interest will wane, and the results will be less important by the day. A $180 million roster has no one to blame but itself. The latest failure, Sunday's 6-2 defeat by the Atlanta Braves that completed a sweep, served as a solid kick of reality to the face.

"There has been a lot of damaging moments," righthander Roy Halladay said. "It's getting frustrating. We have no choice but to keep playing."

A lost weekend has left Ruben Amaro Jr. with no choice but to sell parts. The general manager declined to comment after Sunday's loss as he walked swiftly to manager Charlie Manuel's office. The trade deadline is 4 p.m. Tuesday, and Monday could be a busy day for Amaro.

The clubhouse knows that change is near.

"I guess," Manuel said, "there's going to be a lot of thinking going on, evidently."

The Phillies have spent 25 consecutive days in last place and have not occupied the cellar this late in a season since 2002. Atlanta has won six straight against them for the first time since 1997.

Sunday marked the 57th loss in 2012, a feat achieved in 102 games. The Phillies did not lose No. 57 in 2011 until Sept. 21, the 155th game. They must endure 60 more games this year.

It's likely they will do that without Shane Victorino, Joe Blanton, and Juan Pierre. All three have been closely scouted by contending teams and will be free agents at season's end. They no longer serve a purpose for this wayward team.

If this was Victorino's last moment as a Phillie, he made his mark in another defeat. He jacked a home run to right, singled twice, stole a base, and scored two runs. The centerfielder has flourished in 15 games since the all-star break; he is hitting .357 with eight extra-base hits and 14 runs scored.

He could represent a crucial addition for a contending club.

"I'm not even thinking that way," Victorino said. "Ruben has not said anything to me personally. Everything's a rumor, everything's hearsay. I've always said I can start any rumor I want, but until my GM calls me and tells me something, I'm just focused on winning. I've always said that. I'm just going to keep plugging along. We have 60 games, and my goal is to play those 60 games here."

Victorino said he has not paid attention to the rumors. It's impossible not to. Family and friends have asked him for information. Victorino wants desperately to remain in Philadelphia, but he has watched other teammates sign contract extensions before him. The writing is on the wall.

"He's been part of everything we've accomplished around here," Manuel said.

The next goal is restocking for 2013 while maintaining an expensive and competitive team. A healthy Halladay will be crucial. The Phillies are an inconceivable 11-20 in games started by Halladay and Cliff Lee this season.

Halladay was tagged Sunday for three runs in the game's first three innings. After throwing an ill-fated cutter to Chipper Jones that landed in the seats, Halladay did not flinch. He stared straight ahead before spiking the rosin bag on the mound.

"It's going to be hard," he said, "and obviously we're in a substantial hole, but we need to prove some things to ourselves and get things going in the right direction."

The eulogies will be read in the coming days when the Phillies make trades with an eye toward 2013.

"What can you do?" Victorino said. "It's better to keep going and stay after it."

That hardly makes it less painful for these Phillies and their fans.

Contact Matt Gelb at or follow on Twitter @magelb.

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