ATLANTA -- Manager Charlie Manuel said last week the Phillies should "hit leather" before Tuesday's 4 p.m. Trade Deadline.
That meant he wanted the front office to buy.
But the Phillies sunk those chances during a disastrous weekend in Atlanta, which included Sunday's 6-2 loss to the Braves at Turner Field. Atlanta swept the three-game series to drop Philadelphia to 45-57. The Phillies are 16 1/2 games behind the first-place Nationals in the National League East and 12 1/2 games behind the NL Wild Card leaders with six teams ahead of them in the standings and just 60 games to play.
It would take a miracle to make the postseason.
"I think where we're at speaks for itself," Manuel said. "We're definitely behind. Our record, if we were .500 and jumped these teams, we might be able to do it. We're 12 games under .500 with 60 to play? We would have to come a long ways, but I've seen it happen before. Therefore you don't ever say die. We've still got a heartbeat."
The Phillies said last week they consider themselves "improvers" rather than buyers or sellers, but it would seem to make sense at this point to sell to improve for 2013.
Shane Victorino, Joe Blanton and Juan Pierre seem to be the most likely to go.
Blanton, who earned the win in Game 4 of the 2008 World Series, pitched splendidly Saturday in a 2-1 loss. Victorino, who had several clutch hits in the 2008 postseason and is immensely popular in Philadelphia, went 3-for-4 with a home run and a stolen base Sunday.
It could have been Victorino's last game in a Phillies uniform.
"I'm not even thinking that way," he insisted. "[General manager] Ruben [Amaro Jr. has not said anything to me personally. Everything's a rumor, everything's hearsay. I've always said I can start any rumor I want, but until my GM calls me and tells me something, I'm just focused on winning and going out there and just helping this team win. I've always said that. I'm just going to keep plugging along. We have 60 games, and my goal is to play those 60 games here.
"[Amaro] does have tough decisions to make. Especially with the way things have gone, the way we've played this year. Any time there is tough decisions to make, whether it's from a seller's standpoint or a buyer's standpoint, I think from the front office standpoint, you have to sit there and say, 'You know what? This has been a special team, some of those guys, you don't want to let go.' But again, we have to go out and play and prove to him we want to keep this team together. Unfortunately we haven't up to this point. We showed signs of brilliancy [at home] with four walk-offs, but a series like this was very crucial for us."
Perhaps the biggest way the Phillies can improve in 2013 is getting a better performance from their ballyhooed rotation.
Its 4.07 ERA ranked 15th out of 30 teams entering Sunday.
Roy Halladay has been a big reason for the rotation's drop in production. He struggled before landing on the disabled list in May with a strained right back muscle. He hasn't been his typical dominant self in three starts since his return this month, either.
He allowed six hits, three runs, one walk, two home runs and struck out seven in six innings Sunday. The right-hander retired the final 10 batters he faced, perhaps a sign he is starting to get back on track.
The Phillies need him.
"We made some changes mechanically," said Halladay, who notched his 2,000th strikeout in the first inning. "It's going to take some getting used to, but pitch-wise, I thought there was better movement. The cutter was better. The curveball was better. It was a good step, but I need to keep working on it and be more consistent with it. I definitely felt like it was a step in the right direction; things were better."
Halladay came to Philadelphia in December 2009 with dreams of a World Series championship. He fell short in 2010 and '11. It looks like he'll fall short this season, too.
"There have been a lot of damaging moments," he said about this season. "It's getting frustrating. We have no choice but to keep playing. Regardless of what we did coming into this and what we have in front of us, I think we owe it to the fans, ourselves and the organization to go out and turn things around.
"It's nothing that we aren't all responsible for. There are times you have to take your lumps. Obviously the goal was to come here and win and you want to come and be on a team that's competitive, but when you play the way we have and you put yourself in a hole, there are decisions that have to be made, and that's part of it. It's not easy to swallow, but we've kind of all put ourselves in this situation and sometimes you have to kind of take it like a man."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.