Shane Robinson lashed a J.C. Ramirez fastball to center and Mayberry was slow to react.
The Phillies are playing without a true centerfielder as general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. considers adding a piece. So the onus falls on Mayberry, a player Manuel benched for two games last August because of a misplay in center.
Ramirez was in the game because the starter, John Lannan, was done after four forgettable innings. He was standing on deck in the fifth when Manuel called him back. The Phillies put two runners on base, and it was time to strike. Up came John McDonald, who had accumulated as many hits (four) as Lannan in 30 more at-bats. He tapped into a rally-killing double play.
Ramirez posted a 6.53 ERA at triple-A Lehigh Valley and he is a major-league pitcher because four Phils relievers are injured and others are ineffective. Robinson smashed his 34th pitch of the inning.
As Robinson's ball screamed toward center, Mayberry ran straight ahead. The ball broke. He was doomed.
He lunged. He landed some four feet short of the ball, which bounced over his head and rolled toward the warning track. He raised his right arm in a last-ditch attempt to stop the ball from skipping past him. It was too late.
He never touched the ball. Laynce Nix fetched it and fired to the infield. Robinson stopped at third with a three-run triple. The score was 9-1.
"We're definitely optimistic," Mayberry said afterward. "We have faith. We have confidence."
The baseball gods are trying to send these Phillies a message. Manuel said beforehand that his team "better play like hell." Instead it was careless and listless. The decisions facing Amaro were made easier by the inning.
Amaro engaged Manuel in an extended talk after the defeat. Then Amaro closed the door to the coaches' room and held a lengthy meeting with Manuel's staff. When it was complete, Amaro declined to comment.
"We have to play a really high percentage of baseball," Manuel said before the loss. "I'm not saying that we can't. I would never say that we can't. At the same time, we definitely . . . it's tough for us."
The 69-year-old manager is resigned to his fate. He fielded a lineup Wednesday without Domonic Brown, Ryan Howard, and Ben Revere. He will do that again for at least one more day while Brown recovers from concussion symptoms.
Does he believe help is near?
"No, I don't," Manuel said. "They are talking to every team in baseball, but we're not close, as far as I hear. We're not really close on deals. . . . There's just a lot of fishing right now."
The rest of baseball will pick at this corpse. Amaro preached patience before. On this night, the general manager likely went to sleep with the image of Mayberry's dive in his mind, and maybe it was nightmarish enough to prompt change.
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