There are slumps, and then there are slumps.
What the Phillies are going through now... is a slump.
The Five-time National League East Champions, just days after clinching home field advantage throughout the playoffs, have lost five games in a row -- the first time since 2009 -- when they dropped the next to last home game of the regular season to the Nationals 7-5 Wednesday night.
It was another ugly effort from the Phillies, who have looked nothing like the team that breezed so easily through the National League from April through August. The good news is that these last few games mean nothing in the grand scheme of things, but losing three to the Nats isn't exactly the best way to head into the playoffs.
Rookie Vance Worley took the loss, but pitched well enough, as he allowed four earned runs over six innings of work, while striking out six. The runs came on a pair of two run homers -- a second inning blast from from Nats catcher Wilsom Ramos to start the scoring and another from second baseman Danny Espinosa, whose homer put the Nats back on top after the Phillies had taken the lead.
The Phillies -- short on runs lately -- got on the board in the second inning, when the bottom of the lineup strung five hits together, with RBIs coming from Ben Francisco and Worley, to tie the game at two apiece. They would take the lead an inning later on an RBI single from Raul Ibanez.
Their lead lasted for all of three innings as the Nats put two on the board in the top of the sixth on the strength of Phillie-killer Espinosa's 21st longball of the season. They would extend that lead in the eighth, when they put three on the board -- two off the recently called up Phillies reliever Justin De Fratus, and another off the struggling Antonio Bastardo -- to take a 7-3 lead.
The Phillies responded by putting two more on the board in the bottom of the eighth, courtesy of John Mayberry's 15th home run of the year, to bring them within two runs. But that was all they would get, as the Nats stymied the offense for the next two innings to come within one win of being the first team to sweep the Phillies in a three- or four-game series in 2011.
Considering that the Phillies have nothing left to play for until next weekend, there isn't too much to gleam from these losses -- as frustrating as they are -- other than the fact that the team is banged up, tired, and a bit checked out. Wins are nice and all, but unless they occur in October, they are quite literally meaningless.
However, the one thing the Phillies do need to have some concern over is the fact that their star reliever, Bastardo, has been very un-Bastardo-like lately. He hasn't had a clean appearance since the beginning of the month. And if there is one thing the Phillies can't afford to lose, it's their lone left-handed reliever and second-best bullpen arm.
But, they still have more than a week of games to go to get everyone straightened out before the games start to mean something again, so this loss (and every other one until next week) is nothing more than window dressing.
The Phillies will play their final home game of the regular season on Thursday as Roy Oswalt (8-9, 3.66) will face off against Brad Peacock (1-0, 1.42).