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CHC@PHI: Nix has a miscue on a pickoff throw at first

PHILADELPHIA -- Mercifully, April is almost over for the Phillies.

Maybe May will prove to be more fruitful, but only if the offense chooses to cooperate.

The Phillies fell to 10-12 following Sunday's 5-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs at Citizens Bank Park, guaranteeing their first losing record in April since the 2007 Phils went 11-14 in the opening month.

The Phillies scored their only run in the ninth inning thanks to Cubs closer Carlos Marmol, who walked three batters and allowed one single to force home a run.

The Phillies, who had one bloop single through the game's first eight innings, have scored two or fewer runs 12 times this season. They are 2-10 in those games.

"That's over with," right fielder Hunter Pence said. "The only thing we can focus on is winning [Monday]. We've got to keep grinding. Playing defense. Doing the little things right. Continue to compete. We're going to turn it around. This team has potential. April, we didn't play as good as we want, but it's in the past."

The Phillies are hoping Ryan Howard and Chase Utley will return to the lineup sometime in the next several weeks -- it would not be a surprise to see one or both of them back before the middle of June -- and get the offense back on track. Until then, the Phillies hope to keep close to their National League East rivals.

If not, Philadelphia could be looking to subtract pieces before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, unlike seasons past when it acquired Joe Blanton, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Pence.

"I don't know if we're keeping our heads above water, but I feel like we're treading water, whatever that means," manager Charlie Manuel said. "I feel like we've got to play a lot better. We can't get far behind."

Jimmy Rollins hit a bloop single to shallow right field in the bottom of the first inning, but Cubs right-hander Matt Garza retired 18 consecutive batters after that hit. The Phillies have struggled so much offensively this season that it is difficult to tell if the pitcher or the hitters are the reason for the lack of runs.

"I guess a mixture of the two," Juan Pierre said. "He threw strikes. He had control over three of his pitches. He's always a tough guy to face. Tonight we couldn't put any pressure on him. It's a little easier when you have a guy in scoring position, but we didn't have one against him."

A couple of defensive miscues also sunk the Phillies early.

Cubs first baseman Bryan LaHair hit a leadoff double in the second and Jeff Baker followed with a line drive to right field. Pence took a couple steps in, but realized the ball was going to carry over his head. He tried to retreat and made a desperate leap for the ball, but it sailed over his head. The ball rolled to the wall to put runners on second and third with none out.

LaHair scored on Ian Stewart's fielder's choice to make it 1-0.

"I've got to get better, I guess," said Pence, who has misplayed a few balls recently. "I would love to be perfect, and I'm going to strive for it. But right now I've got to get better."

Tony Campana hit a leadoff single in the third and advanced to second when Kyle Kendrick's pickoff attempt got away from Laynce Nix. Campana advanced to third on a fielder's choice and scored on Starlin Castro's sacrifice fly to right field. Pence's throw to the plate arrived at the same time as Campana, but he slid between catcher Brian Schneider's legs to make it 2-0.

"We've been making some mistakes in the games that we win," Manuel said. "When we win there's not a whole lot said about them, but we've been making mistakes ever since the season started."

Joe Mather hit a solo home run to left field in the fourth inning to make it 3-0. It was the first homer by a Cubs outfielder -- and Mather's first -- this season.

The Phillies need to win Monday's series finale just to split a four-game set against the team with the second-worst record in the National League. The Phils split a four-game series against the Padres last weekend at Petco Park. They have the worst record in the league.

The Phillies are struggling to beat the worst teams in the league. They open May on the road against the Braves and Nationals, teams that possess two of the top four records in the league.

"The teams we feel like we're supposed to beat we're definitely not beating," Manuel said.

And May doesn't start easily, either. Comments