NEW YORK -- Charlie Manuel needed to vent.
He had just watched the Mets sweep the Phillies in a doubleheader Saturday at Citi Field with a 2-1 victory in Game 1 and a 6-3 victory in Game 2. The Phillies have lost eight consecutive games since clinching the National League East on Sept. 17. They have not had an eight-game losing streak since 2000, when they finished 65-97 and had Omar Daal, Kent Bottenfield and Bruce Chen in the rotation, not Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt. They are the first team in baseball history to lose eight straight games after clinching a division or league title and the first to lose eight straight games after winning their 98th game.
If that sounds bad with four games remaining in the regular season, it is.
Manuel spoke to reporters for roughly five minutes in his office. He answered two questions. The answer to his second question lasted nearly four minutes.
He concluded with this: "Do we have time [to turn it around]? I don't know. We'll see. But also, too, it'll be a test of how good we are. How about that? This will be a 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. You might not like it, but it is. We've created it ourselves, so we'll see. That's all I've got to say."
The crux of Manuel's frustrations is his inability to put his everyday lineup on the field. He sounded like he feels hamstrung in terms of making out his lineup because of injuries and concerns about being cautious with players who have had injuries in the past, although Manuel promised he would have his everyday lineup on the field in the series finale Sunday.
"All of a sudden, we want to get our guys who are hurting well," he said. "All of a sudden, we start giving them two and three days off, on one, off one, start deciding when to play them. Look around, and pretty soon you lose your mojo. You lose your time and you lose your rhythm. I know what I'm talking about. I've been in the game for 50 years. I know exactly what I'm talking about. 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. We're searching and nothing's going right.
"We've got 98 wins. We were set to have the biggest year of any Philly team and we got out of sync. ... We keep bouncing around, we keep doing things, we keep getting well and all of that -- we've played all year with people hurting. Every day you play the game of baseball, you hurt. Somehow, you hurt. You have aches and pains -- ankle, knee, elbow, whatever. Headaches. Believe me. You can ask anybody whoever played this game. I played this game for 20 years, I can tell you. When you lose focus and you get out of sync, you've got to get it back."
The Phillies must finish the season 3-1 to tie the franchise record of 101 victories, which was set in 1976 and '77. But that is the least of the team's concerns right now. The Phillies simply need to get on the winning side of things before Game 1 of the NL Division Series next Saturday at Citizens Bank Park.
The Phillies had the bases loaded and no outs in the first inning, but Hunter Pence bounced into a double play and John Mayberry Jr. popped out to end the inning. They scored two runs in the second inning and a run in the third inning to take a 3-0 lead -- a pair of doubles from Ross Gload led the way -- but a costly two-out error from Pence allowed the Mets to score five unearned runs to take a 5-3 lead. The Mets added another run in the fourth.
"I don't know why I missed it, but I did," Pence said. "The play has to be made and it cost us big time."
The players are not panicking because they agreed with Manuel about one thing: they need their everyday lineup on the field.
That has happened just once since Aug. 6.
"We know we're better than that," Shane Victorino said. "We know we're a good team. That's it. I'm not worried. Yeah, you lose eight in a row, people are going to panic and it is close to the postseason, but no, I'm not worried."
"We've had 33 games in 31 days," Ryan Howard said. "I don't know how many times this month that we've had our regular lineup. You're having to mix and match and throw guys into different situations, and teams are going to pitch guys different depending on who is behind who. When you can get it set up the way you want it, the regular lineup. ... If this team even gets semi-going it's a dangerous team, this offense. That's all you have to do. Baby steps. Tell [the fans] to relax, don't panic. If we're not panicking, they shouldn't panic."
But are four games enough time to get straight?
"I think all it will take is one," Howard said. "It's a buildup."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.