PHILADELPHIA -- The door to the bullpen swung open before the ninth inning on Tuesday, and Phillies closer Brad Lidge jogged through center field toward the pitcher's mound. The scoreboard showed its normal graphic of the closer in his windup, accompanied by the words "Lights out Lidge." Lately, however, there have been fewer chances for Lidge to turn the lights out. Such was the case on Tuesday, when the Phillies offense was rendered helpless at the hands of Cardinals starter Joel Pineiro, who blanked the slumping Phillies in 6 1/3 innings of a 2-0 win.
The problem on this night was the offense. The Phillies managed just six hits and squandered several scoring chances. They had the bases loaded with one out in the second inning before Carlos Ruiz grounded into a double play to end the threat. It was the first of three double plays that killed the Phillies' chances of sparking a rally. "Not enough guys are getting on," left fielder Pat Burrell said. "And when they are, we're not getting them in. You go through ruts like this as a team. You gotta find a way to get through it." The Phillies seemed ready to break out of a month-long rut when they swept the Braves in Atlanta last week and beat the Mets on Friday in the first of a four-game series at Citizens Bank Park. After that win, they held a 3 1/2-game lead over the Marlins in the National League East, while the Mets trailed by 5 1/2. Tuesday's loss -- combined with a Mets win over the Giants -- pulls New York to within 1 1/2 games of the Phillies. "We're trying not to let it get to us," catcher Chris Coste said. "We don't want to be like the Mets last year and let it slip away when we have it in our grasp." It was the sixth time the Phillies have been shut out this season, and the third time since June 17, when they lost to the Red Sox to begin a six-game losing streak. Since that day, the Phillies are 6-12. Phillies ace Cole Hamels allowed three hits in seven innings -- two of which were solo home runs, making all the difference for St.Louis. "It's a lot tougher because we didn't score any runs," Hamels said. "Today, not being able to score any runs at all, especially with the offense we have, I think a lot of guys definitely take it on themselves." The Phillies gave their fans a glimmer of ninth-inning hope for the third game in a row. After Ryan Howard's one-out base hit, Pat Burrell drove a deep fly ball that looked like it was headed for the seats in left-center. It ended up falling into Rick Ankiel's glove. Jayson Werth came up next. Werth has been thrust into the late-game spotlight in each of the past three games. His ninth-inning home run Sunday sent the Phillies-Mets game into extra innings before Philadelphia lost it in the 12th. On Monday night, he popped up with the tying run on base to end the Phillies' 10-9 loss to New York. On Tuesday, Werth represented the tying run, but popped up to Albert Pujols at first base to end the game. In the Phillies' four-game losing streak, they are hitting .221 (32-for-145) as a team. "We need to put together some kind of run," Coste said. "And we will." The Phillies are hoping to get it going before the lights go out.
Kevin Horan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.