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Despite struggles, Phillies aim to finish strong

WASHINGTON -- Two years ago Sunday, the Phillies were 77-40 and had an 8 1/2-game lead in the National League East. They had won 12 of their past 13 games and would finish the regular season with 102 victories, the most in franchise history.

To say that things have changed would be an understatement. Entering their series finale against the Nationals, the Phils were 52-64 and trailed the division-leading Braves by 18 1/2 games.

"Every year is different, you know?" catcher Carlos Ruiz said. "I don't think if you win 100-whatever games one year that the next year you're going to win 100. The thing for us this year is that we don't put everything together. Everybody tries so hard. We'll continue to keep fighting and see how we finish the season."

Cliff Lee admitted that it's hard to believe how far the team has fallen.

"Yeah, it really is," Lee said Saturday night. "We've just had bad luck with key injuries. There's no way around it. It kind of is what it is right now. We've just got to keep grinding and fight to the very end."

While they are not mathematically eliminated from the playoff picture, their chances are lessening by the day. Manager Charlie Manuel, who is one win away from the 1,000th of his managerial career, is in the final year of his contract and might not return in 2014.

Ruiz said that those factors won't disrupt the team's focus in the final 46 games of the season.

"From now to the end is like a playoff for us," Ruiz said. "Hopefully we can find a way to win some games."

Tom Schad is an associate reporter for Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Schad.
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