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ATL@PHI: Pierre doubles home the Phillies' first run

PHILADELPHIA -- A month ago, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel compared a losing streak by his club to the stock market. He hoped a fifth straight loss on June 6 that put them two games under .500 was the bottoming-out point.

It wasn't, and after Saturday night's 6-3 loss to the Braves at Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies' ninth in their last 10 games, the situation is much more dire. Fans have been eagerly awaiting the point where the season turns around, but with a 37-49 record and 14 games separating the Phillies from the first-place Nationals in the National League East, the first half of the season is ending on a bleak note.

"It seems like I come in here every night and I say, 'Well, we didn't do enough to win, we didn't play good enough to win.' Things like that," Manuel said. "I say it every night. Of course, the more we lose, the older it gets."

The Phillies are 12 games under .500 for the first time since the close of the 2000 season, when Terry Francona was the manager and they were still playing at Veterans Stadium. Their 17-26 record at Citizens Bank Park is the worst home record of any NL club.

But despite the current situation, Manuel and his players are still hoping that things will turn around.

"This is the first time we've been behind like this in quite a while," Manuel said. "And we ain't gonna make it up in just one night. It's gonna take us a while to make that up, if we can. I think we can. I definitely think that we can play a heck of a lot better. If we play the way that we can, we'll definitely win some games. How many, I don't know; but we'll definitely be better than what we are right now."

On Saturday, the offense was stifled by Braves starter Tommy Hanson, as Philadelphia managed just six hits in the game.

Brian McCann continued to crush the Phillies. The Braves' catcher homered for the second straight night against Philadelphia and chipped in an RBI single, his 11th RBI against the Phils this season. The home run was an NL-worst 20th allowed by Joe Blanton, who has allowed at least one long ball in 11 straight starts.

Blanton fell to 7-8 after allowing six runs (five earned) on nine hits over 6 1/3 innings, with six strikeouts and a walk. Atlanta tagged him for a run in the second and third innings, and two more in the fourth. Meanwhile, after an RBI single from Blanton in a three-run second inning, Hanson retired 13 straight Phillies.

"It's always something different," Blanton said. "If we score, we're giving up runs. If we throw good, we're not scoring. It's something always. It's frustrating. It's not like guys aren't trying. It's just sometimes things don't work out, and it's just happened that way this year."

The Phillies are 11 losses away from matching their total amount of losses last season, when they won their fifth consecutive NL East title. Manuel has spoken to his team three or four times this season. At this point, he doesn't know what else he can say.

"It's real tough," he said. "For five years, we didn't even talk about winning or losing. If we'd go on a skid sometime it would come up, but nobody wanted to bring it up. We always expected that we were gonna win. You can kinda sense that feeling is not there no more.

"But at the same time, how do we get it back is by outplaying the other team and enjoying it and really having a loving passion to go out there and really try to do the best we can."

Blanton said the Phillies have to remain positive. He hopes a win against Atlanta on Sunday headed into the All-Star break can carry positive vibes into the second half of the season. Right fielder Hunter Pence is confident the Phillies can climb the uphill battle that is in front of them.

"You can't explain baseball. Weird things happen," Pence said. "The second half, obviously, we've all seen it. We've seen collapses and we've seen comebacks. You've gotta believe that's the case and keep coming with everything you've got every day. Everyone in here is here to win, and we're not gonna stop because we're facing this adversity."

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