The march to 2013 can officially commence, although Manuel has priorities for the final five games of 2012.
"I definitely want to see us get over .500," Manuel said. "What does it mean? I don't know. But we want to end the season with a winning record. I don't know what difference it makes, but I think it looks better [to honor] the support of our fans. It definitely matters to us."
The latest loss means the Phillies must finish 4-1 to achieve Manuel's goal. Friday encapsulated this morose season. Manuel noticed a definite lull in energy as the Phillies limp to the bitter end.
"Our team is getting a little spent because they have put a lot into it," Manuel said. "I've been using the same lineup for a while."
So Ryan Howard sat for the first time in 18 games. Domonic Brown had started the previous 22 games, and he also rested. Stacking the lineup with righties did little against Mark Buehrle. He cruised through seven innings.
Lee matched him and was sparkling again. He struck out five, walked none, and allowed three hits in seven innings. The lone mistake was a Giancarlo Stanton bomb to left in the fourth that put the Marlins ahead until Jimmy Rollins tied it in the eighth with a two-out single.
In 1072/3 innings since the all-star break, Lee has a 2.34 ERA with 102 strikeouts and eight walks. He has been as good as any pitcher in baseball, yet the Phillies have gone 8-7 in his last 15 starts.
"We have to finish out this year strong and play the game the right way," Lee said. "Considering how bad we were in the first half, we were really fortunate to be where we were these past few weeks."
Before the first pitch, Manuel started his exit interviews. He was accompanied by his boss, Ruben Amaro Jr., and the two talked to Rollins and Chase Utley. There will be more discussions in the coming days, something the Phillies have not done in recent years.
"We want to talk to all of our core players," Manuel said. "We talked about the things we want to do next year and how we want to go about doing it. They can say anything they want to. That's why we talk to them."
All that's left is lamenting a lost season.
Two pitchers rehab
Mike Stutes (shoulder surgery) has started a throwing program in Florida and is expected to begin throwing off a mound in the next couple of weeks, Amaro said. He expects Stutes to be ready for spring training.
David Herndon (Tommy John surgery) will not be ready to return until late May or early June.
Darin Ruf made his fourth straight start in left field. He will play this winter in Venezuela for Jorge Velandia, the Phillies' assistant minor-league field coordinator. Amaro said Velandia will ensure that Ruf plays left field every day. "It should be a good experience for him," Amaro said. . . . The Phillies acquired 22-year-old infielder Stefan Jarrin from Los Angeles as the player to be named to complete the Shane Victorino trade. Jarrin, a 40th-round pick in 2011, hit .209 in rookie ball this season.
Contact Matt Gelb at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow on Twitter @magelb.
Bob Brookover contributed to this article.