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Skid scattered with missed opportunities

Phillies come up empty after putting two runners on with no outs in fourth

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies are hanging their red caps on the fact they have been losing close games lately. They said it shows they can compete.

"Maybe notwithstanding [Tuesday's 19-3 loss], we've actually been battling pretty well," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said before Wednesday's 6-4 loss to the Orioles at Citizens Bank Park.

"It was good to see late fight with the guys," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said afterward. "But we came up short."

The Phillies have lost nine consecutive games, their longest losing streak since an 11-game skid in September 1999. They also have lost 19 of their last 22, losing nine of those games by two or fewer runs. But a close loss is still a loss, and the Phillies have dropped to 22-45.

The biggest culprit is an anemic offense that entered the night averaging just 3.03 runs per game, the lowest average of any team in baseball since 1972.

"The frustrating part of it is one ball away, one ball in play, on base hit away from I don't know how many more wins than we have," Sandberg said. "Those start to add up. We find ourselves in a losing streak because we don't scrap out a couple of those wins, and maybe change the momentum the other day. That's not getting the job done and not executing."

The fourth inning encapsulated the Phillies' season-long offensive struggles. Maikel Franco singled and Ryan Howard doubled to put runners on second and third with no outs. But Orioles right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez struck out Domonic Brown looking, Cameron Rupp swinging and Cody Asche looking to end the inning.

Video: [email protected]: Ubaldo strikes out Asche to escape trouble

"It's possible to get two runs there with no hits," Sandberg said. "When you don't have a swing and you take pitches to drive and you go at balls in the dirt, that's where it becomes hard."

The Phillies finished the night 1-for-7 with runners in scoring positon.

"We're just trying to keep our heads up and keep moving forward," said Brown, who struck out on a pitch that appeared to be above the zone. "I don't think that I was pressing there. We've just got to get the job done right there. Good teams capitalize right there. I'm not going to say any bad calls or anything, because you get pitches to hit."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone, follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast.
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