Playing for their postseason lives, the Phillies suffered a damaging 5-1 loss to the Washington Nationals on Monday night and afterward, the frustration was palpable in the voices of manager Joe Girardi and slugger Bryce Harper.
"We played poorly, really poorly," Girardi said. "That's what bothers me more than anything. We gave them runs."
In the heat of a pennant race, the Phillies have lost back-to-back starts by Zack Wheeler.
"Our offense didn't show up," Harper said. "He shows up for every start he has. He's out there competing his butt off and we weren't able to put runs on the board. We've got to be better offensively."
The Phillies need to be better in all phases of the game — quickly.
The season is down to six games with a doubleheader on tap against the Nationals on Tuesday.
Aaron Nola will start the first game. The worst bullpen in the majors will cover the second game.
The Phils had been 6-0 this season against the Nationals before Monday night's loss. The defeat dropped the Phils to the .500 mark and from seventh to eighth place in the NL playoff chase. Only eight teams make the playoffs and the Phillies' lead is a half-game.
"We need to play better if we want to play in October," Girardi said.
Girardi was frustrated by his team's poor defense — the Phils made three errors — and by the work of Junior Valentine, the home plate umpire.
Valentine booted Roman Quinn for bellyaching about a called third strike on a 3-2 pitch from Anibal Sanchez (it was too close to take) in the third inning and moments later tossed Girardi for pleading Quinn's case. The television broadcast caught Girardi shouting, "Clean it up! This is a big game!" at Valentine.
"I thought the strike zone was pretty liberal down (in the zone) the first two innings, which upset me," Girardi said. "For a (pitcher) that's nibbling, I think you reward the hitters for being patient and not swinging at balls.
"It upset me that he ejected Roman when he was walking away. That really bothered me. Give him another chance to walk away. He was walking away and he got thrown out. That's frustrating to me.
"There was also a strike call on Jay Bruce that was frustrating.
"And we have a shot that we think shows (Jean) Segura safe (on a caught stealing in the second inning). That's frustrating.
"But the bottom line is, I don't know if any of that cost us the game. I think the bottom line is we didn't swing the bats well and we didn't play good defense."
Sanchez, the Washington starter, entered the game with a 7.38 ERA. He allowed four singles and walked four batters over five innings but the Phils struck out six times and scored just once against him. For the game, the Phils had just six hits and five of them were singles. Their only extra-base hit came on a Scott Kingery double in the ninth. They were 0 for 4 with runners in scoring position and left eight men on base.
Girardi was clearly agitated that the Phils didn't do more against Sanchez.
"He's extremely crafty," Girardi said. "He lives on the edges. He's going to be in deep counts and when you get a pitch to hit you can't miss it, and it seemed like when we got a pitch to hit we weren't able to center it up and he was able to expose us, sometimes down."
Harper was even more blunt in talking about how the Phils should have feasted on Sanchez.
"These are games we've got to win," Harper said. "Especially today. We should have been able to get all over Anibal today and we weren't able to do that. We've got to get going tomorrow."
Harper did not absolve himself from blame. He went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts and is 0 for 8 with four strikeouts in the last two games, both losses.
"I'm swinging at pitches out of the zone and missing pitches in the zone," he said. "I've got to be better."