Even on a night when the Atlanta Braves were idle, the Phillies couldn't pick up any ground on the National League East leaders.
They were really their own worst enemy.
They made mistakes in the field and mistakes on the mound with the game on the line in the ninth inning.
The result was a 7-4 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday night. The Rays, owners of the best record in the American League, swept the quick, two-game series and improved to 79-48.
The Phillies have lost 10 of their last 14 games to slip to 63-63 with 36 games remaining. They are five games behind the Braves, who, in a quirk of scheduling, are idle again on Thursday. The Phillies open a four-game series with Arizona on Thursday night. The Diamondbacks have the worst record in the National League but swept the Phillies last week in Phoenix.
"Obviously, we have to pick it up," said Zack Wheeler, who gave up a three-run homer to Rays catcher Francisco Mejia with no outs in the top of the ninth in a 4-4 game to take the loss.
"We need to find that consistency down this last stretch. It's big. Everyone knows that. We need to play some good baseball. It starts with us out there as starters to set the tone."
Wheeler set a good tone with 10 strikeouts over the first eight innings to put himself over 200 for the season. He became the first pitcher in the majors to get there this season and he did it in his 26th start. Only Curt Schilling and Steve Carlton reached 200 Ks in fewer starts as Phillies.
The right-hander survived poor defense behind him that led to two unearned runs in the fourth inning and benefitted from a pair of game-tying homers -- Bryce Harper with a two-run shot in the fifth and Rhys Hoskins with a solo shot in the eighth – on his way to taking the mound with the score knotted at 4-4 in the top of the ninth inning.
Wheeler was at 93 pitches and no walks. It was his inning.
"I liked his stuff and it's as good as anyone we have," Girardi said. "It's a judgment on my call. It didn't work, but I still liked his stuff."
Wheeler allowed a leadoff single to Yandy Diaz then two straight 0-2 hits, a double over the third base bag to Kevin Kiermaier, and the three-run homer to Mejia to break the tie.
"I felt fine," Wheeler said. "Obviously, I was a little tired but I felt good enough to go back out there. I just didn't execute a couple of pitches there. Maybe my stuff wasn't as crisp. I don't know.
"It's disappointing. Joe trusted me and I didn't do my job. It stinks. It's just one of those that you forget."
Both 0-2 pitches were 97 mph fastballs that caught too much of the hitting zone.
"It's a chance to expand the zone more and he didn't do it," Girardi said. "He was good doing that when he needed to tonight but in that inning, he couldn't do it."
Mistakes in the field. Mistakes over the plate. They'll kill you.
The Phillies' problems on defense in the fourth inning included a couple of ground balls getting by Hoskins at first base. One was a tough play, a smash by Wander Franco, the other a playable ground ball by Diaz. Hoskins at first broke the wrong way, then slipped. He is playing on a bad groin and won't start Thursday as the Phillies try to protect him from a setback.
The other miscue occurred in left field, where Andrew McCutchen, who is also playing on a gimpy leg, lost a ball in the lights.
The three runs that Wheeler allowed in the ninth were the kill shot.
But the two unearned runs in the fourth hurt badly.
"If you make mistakes against this team, they will make you pay and that's exactly what they did," Girardi said.