PHILADELPHIA -- Tuesday seemed like a good opportunity for Charlie Manuel to talk to his team.
The Phillies suffered an ugly 7-4 loss to the New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park to drop to 14-17. If they lose the series finale Wednesday, they will fall four games under .500 for the first time since May 9, 2007.
They have looked listless at times. They have looked uninspired.
"I've wanted to talk to them," Manuel said. "I wanted to talk to them in San Diego. But right now at this point I don't really know what to say to them. That's kind of how I feel. I mean, I'm going to talk to them. I might go over and talk to them right now. I don't know. But sooner or later I will talk to them. But right now I don't know what I want to say."
Manuel then offered a preview of what he might say to his team.
"I think we're tight," he said. "I think we try too hard. When we have to do something, that's how they feel: 'We have to do it. We have to do something right now.' If you just chip away if you get behind in the game, just play baseball, just add one run at a time, we'll be OK. If we just relax and do it because we enjoy doing it, with the mindset that we're going to do it -- if we can do that, I think you'll see a more cool and collected team."
The Phillies spotted Joe Blanton an early 4-0 lead with help from Hunter Pence, who hit a two-run home run in the first inning. It was Pence's fourth home run in five games, which is more than welcomed for a team that entered Tuesday ranked 14th in the National League with 70 extra-base hits.
Blanton battled with his command all night, but had allowed only one run through six. He got into a jam in the seventh, allowing a run to score and leaving runners on first and second with two outs when Chad Qualls entered the game.
Qualls is supposed to be one of the Phillies' best bullpen arms, but he is 1-1 with an 8.31 ERA and three blown saves in his last six appearances. He allowed a single to right field to David Wright to score a run to make it 4-3. Pence's throw home was not close to the plate. It could have been cut off, but first baseman John Mayberry Jr. let the ball go by him.
Carlos Ruiz moved up the first-base line to retrieve the ball, and when he picked it up, he threw to second, where Jimmy Rollins caught the ball and ran Wright back to first. Keeping an eye on Kirk Nieuwenhuis at third, Rollins tossed the ball to Pete Orr, who was standing at first. Orr started running Wright toward second base -- where nobody covering the bag -- when he noticed Nieuwenhuis moving toward home plate.
Orr threw to third, but it missed its mark, skipped past Placido Polanco and traveled up the third-base line. Nieuwenhuis scored to tie the game and Wright reached third. Antonio Bastardo replaced Qualls, and he allowed a single to Lucas Duda to score Wright to give the Mets a 5-4 lead.
"I made a bad throw to third," Orr said. "Whether he would have been out or safe, who knows? But it should have been a better throw."
"It was just trying to stay in the rundown long enough for the guy to score," Wright said. "I wasn't lasting too much longer in that rundown, especially with Pete and Jimmy going back and forth with the ball. So I was hoping that we would draw a throw and everybody's safe, or at least I could stay there long enough for Nieuwey to score."
The 4-0 lead had been blown, but that has been a familiar theme for the Phillies recently. They have scored early, gone into an offensive hibernation the rest of the game and had the bullpen blow the lead. And in cases like Tuesday night, when the bullpen allowed two more runs in the ninth, it failed to keep the game close.
The bullpen has a 7.56 ERA since April 23.
"If we've got them then we better start stepping up," said Manuel, asked if he has the horses in his bullpen to compete. "We're giving each and every one of them a chance."
That could be said for the entire team right now.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.