AP Sports Writer

NEW YORK (AP) _ With nothing left to play for in the regular
season, the Philadelphia Phillies are playing as if they have
nothing left.

Manager Charlie Manuel isn’t sure how to fix it.

There’s no reason to panic, his players say.

Hunter Pence dropped a deep fly ball for an error that led to
five unearned runs, and the New York Mets completed a doubleheader
sweep with a 6-3 victory Saturday night that handed the NL East
champions their eighth straight defeat.

Having already secured home-field advantage throughout the
postseason, the sluggish Phillies remained winless since clinching
their fifth consecutive division title last Saturday. The losing
streak is their longest since an eight-game skid late in the 2000
season, when they finished 65-97 and last in the NL East under
manager Terry Francona.

“I’m sitting there watching it. Don’t know what I can do about
it,” Manuel said. “If you want to know the truth, our team’s out
of sync, definitely out of focus, and we’re not playing. You guys
see how we’re playing. The teams that we’re losing to, we stop and
look at our record against them this year and everything. There
ain’t too much going our way right now.”

In the afternoon opener, R.A. Dickey took a no-hit bid into the
seventh inning and David Wright hit a tiebreaking double in the
eighth as New York won 2-1. Shane Victorino doubled with one out in
the seventh for Philadelphia’s first hit, and Dickey wound up with
a no-decision.

Pitching a parade of relievers in a bullpen tuneup for the
playoffs, the Phillies jumped out to an early 3-0 lead against
rookie Dillon Gee in the nightcap. But things quickly unraveled in
the third.

With two on and two outs, Willie Harris hit a long drive to
right and Pence, making his first start since missing three games
with a strained left knee, took an awkward route to the ball. It
glanced off his glove on the warning track and both runners scored
on a three-base error.

“I saw it. I just missed it,” Pence said. “It’s a play that’s
got to be made and it cost us big-time.”

David Herndon (1-4) then issued his second walk of the inning,
drawing the ire of a visibly irritated Manuel. He yanked the
right-hander in favor of Kyle Kendrick, who gave up an RBI double
to Nick Evans and a two-run single to Josh Thole.

Jason Pridie doubled off Kendrick to begin the fourth and scored
on Ruben Tejada’s single, making it 6-3.

Batting cleanup, Pence also grounded into a 1-2-3 double play
with the bases loaded and nobody out in the first. Gee (13-6)
escaped unscathed and recovered to allow three runs _ two earned _
and nine hits in six innings.

It was the first win in five starts for Gee, roughed up by
Philadelphia twice this season.

Bobby Parnell retired all five batters he faced, and Manny
Acosta got three outs for his fourth save. He also closed out the
day game.

“With what’s happened with us as of late, to beat that team, as
good as they are, I don’t care who else is on the field, it’s big
for us,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “We need the confidence
that we can compete. So again, I’m really proud of the way our guys
played today.”

After a rainout Friday night, the Phillies played their third
doubleheader in 10 days. The wet weather gave them their first day
off since Aug. 28, when they were rained out by Hurricane Irene.

Loaded with pitching, the Phillies look worn out at the plate.
They are averaging just 2.41 runs while going 5-12 in their last 17
games. They have four games remaining before the playoff opener
next Saturday, and Philadelphia is expected to be a heavy favorite
in the NL.

“Of course, yeah, you lose eight in a row, people are going to
panic,” center fielder Shane Victorino said. “But I’m not
worried. We haven’t had our full lineup out there guys, relax. We
haven’t had one through eight.”

Manuel thinks all the tweaking he’s done to the lineup to rest
banged-up players has contributed to the slump.

“Pretty soon you lose your mojo. You lose your timing, you lose
your rhythm. I know what I’m talking about. I’ve been in the damn
game for 50 years,” he said. “I preach about it every day. People
hear it but they look at me like I’m stupid or crazy. Maybe I am.
But that’s what’s happening. That’s what you’re seeing. We’re out
of sync, we’re out of focus, like we’re searching. And nothing’s
going right.”

Roy Halladay tries to stop the slide Sunday when he makes his
final regular-season start against Mike Pelfrey and the Mets.

“I don’t think there’s a lack of focus. I think we just need to
execute. Right now as a team we just hit a little bit of a wall,”
slugger Ryan Howard said. “Yeah, the intensity could probably be a
little bit better.”

As for the concerned fans back in Philadelphia?

“If we’re not panicking, they shouldn’t panic,” he said.

Cole Hamels pitched seven sharp innings for the Phillies in the
opener, allowing only a pinch-hit homer by Valentino Pascucci that
tied the score in the seventh. The left-hander, 3-10 in 17 starts
against the Mets, yielded four hits and struck out seven.

Hamels said he’ll start again on three days’ rest Wednesday
night in Atlanta, using the regular-season finale as his final
tuneup for the playoffs. He said the losing streak has been
“depressing and angry.”

“I know we’re a good team and we’re not winning,” Hamels said.
“So it’s becoming very frustrating because you expect more out of
everybody, and we’re not able to do it.”

Dickey retired his first 15 batters before walking Ruiz to start
the sixth.

A switch-hitter, Victorino batted right-handed to get a better
look at Dickey’s knuckleball. He snapped an 0-for-20 slide with his
seventh-inning double and scored when Howard followed with a

The Mets have never thrown a no-hitter. Born in 1962, they are
closing in on 50 full seasons without one.

“I had the type of knuckleball today where I thought I had the
chance, and I don’t often say that,” Dickey said.

Parnell (4-6) retired Placido Polanco on a grounder with two on
to end the eighth. Philadelphia had two on when Carlos Ruiz flied
out to end it.

Ruben Tejada singled with one out in the eighth off Brad Lidge
(0-2) and stole second before Wright hit a grounder inside third

“When you lose focus and you get out of sync, then you’ve got
to get it back. Now do we have time? I don’t know, we’ll see,”
Manuel said. “It’ll be a test to how good we are. How about that?
This is a real good test. This is the first time this year that
we’ve actually gone bad. And it’s not a real good time to go bad,
but at the same time we’ll see. This is a good measuring stick for
us. We might not like it, but it is. We created that ourself. So
we’ll see. That’s all I’ve got to say.”

NOTES: Howard returned to the lineup in the opener after missing
six games with a sore left ankle. He received an anti-inflammatory
injection Monday to relieve the pain. He walked as a pinch-hitter
in the nightcap. … Collins indicated that RF Lucas Duda and
reliever Jason Isringhausen (back) probably will miss the rest of
the season. Duda was still having headaches after crashing into the
outfield fence Wednesday in St. Louis. … New York CF Angel Pagan
sat out both games. Pagan has been experiencing headaches since
hitting himself in the back of the head on a backswing Thursday.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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