Jimmy Rollins, guaranteed $11 million for next season, continued to thrive as a power hitter and smashed his 15th homer. The young bullpen, a unit that generated confidence for a few weeks, floundered in a five-run seventh.
This team, much like the franchise as a whole, spins in circles.
General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. watched from a suite. Television cameras captured him in the second inning, using a landline phone at Citi Field, and one would assume the device was functional. But as contenders arm themselves for pennant races, few Phillies are linked as possible upgrades.
The question, then, is what do the Phillies stand to gain in the final two months with this roster?
"Just continue to battle," Ryne Sandberg said. "It's fun to win games. Putting wins together, that's even more fun. When you have a schedule, you continue to battle. There comes goals of catching the teams in front of you, and you need to play better baseball to do that."
For the manager, fourth place in the National League East is a heck of a goal. His players, when asked if the Phillies stood to benefit from change, pleaded ignorance.
"I don't know," Howard said. "Really, I don't know. . . . I probably have to think about that a little bit and get back to you."
"I don't know," Kendrick said. "I can't answer that. I don't know. That's not for me to worry about."
Amaro, who did not make a trade last July because he felt rival executives did not properly value his limited trade assets, could abstain again this summer. His best chips this time are Marlon Byrd, Cliff Lee, A.J. Burnett, and Antonio Bastardo. They are pocked with various flaws, whether it be cumbersome contracts, injury worries, or recent ineffectiveness.
A favorite Amaro aphorism is, "Trades are difficult to make." But there will be quite a few agreements between other teams before the deadline. Sandberg does not believe his team, outscored by 68 runs in 108 games, is far from future competitiveness.
"I think there are a lot of pieces here," Sandberg said. "We have some guys that are going to be here that are part of the puzzle and they're going to be pieces going forward. No question about that."
The game devolved Wednesday once the bullpen door opened. Mario Hollands, Justin De Fratus and Phillippe Aumont combined to allow seven runs on eight hits and two walks.
Kendrick fizzled yet again. He has a 4.92 ERA in 22 starts. His ERA in the last calendar year (31 starts) is 5.41; only Chicago's Edwin Jackson has a higher mark. His performance will cost him money this winter in free agency.
"I haven't been thinking about it much," Kendrick said. "I think I worried about it more last year than this year, honestly. This year, the first innings were tough there, got past that. And now it seems like it's one inning here, one inning there. I felt pretty good about how I threw today. It was just one bad inning."
The Phillies have not won consecutive series since late April. They could have accomplished that banal feat with a victory Wednesday. The failure, by now, is too familiar.