PHILADELPHIA -- Charlie Manuel has been asked the same question nearly every day since the season started.
He has been asked about his team's ability to keep pace in the National League East while Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and a host of others are healing from various injuries. Less than a week ago, the Phillies seemed to be doing a fine job of it, winning seven out of nine to improve to a season-high three games over .500 and moving within 2 1/2 games of first place in the NL East.
But five consecutive losses later, including Wednesday's 6-5 loss to the Dodgers at Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies are two games under .500 for the first time since May 22 and six games out of first place.
"Everything about our team is kind of whacked up," Manuel said afterward. "I feel like what's going on wrong, sooner or later, it's going to be like the stock market and bottom out somewhere. We'll start working from there. Hopefully, that was tonight."
Fortunately, the Phillies have Cole Hamels on the mound in the series finale Thursday.
Unfortunately, sometimes a stellar pitching performance is not enough.
Each loss to the Dodgers this week has been painful -- and close, only reemphasizing the Phillies' inability to come back to win a game late. They are 0-22 when trailing after seven innings this season. The Brewers (0-26) and Cardinals (0-23) are the only other teams in the Majors to be winless when trailing after seven innings.
The Dodgers scored a run off closer Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth inning in a 4-3 victory Monday. They scored two runs in the eighth inning against Cliff Lee in a 2-1 victory Tuesday. They scored three runs in the sixth inning against Kyle Kendrick on Wednesday. The Phillies scored a run in the ninth and had the tying run on second with one out, but could not bring him home.
Shane Victorino hit a solo home run to left field in the second inning to hand the Phillies a 1-0 lead, but the Dodgers scored two runs in the third to make it 2-1. It stayed that way until the fifth, when Ty Wigginton hit a game-tying home run to left field to lead off the frame.
Dodgers starter Chris Capuano allowed a one-out walk to Mike Fontenot, who batted for Freddy Galvis. The second baseman left the game before the end of his at-bat because of a strained lower back, which will ultimately put him on the disabled list.
That is nine players currently on the DL for those keeping score at home and 13 players overall this season.
Two batters later, Jimmy Rollins launched a two-run home run to left field to give the Phillies a 4-2 lead.
Rollins was hitting just .224 with a .282 on-base percentage and a .276 slugging percentage on May 28. Manuel has been asked a lot lately about moving Rollins down in the lineup, but he believes two months of struggles is not enough time to demote a guy who has been his leadoff hitter since he started filling out the Phillies' lineup card in 2005. But Rollins is heating up. He's hitting .371 (13-for-35) with two doubles, two triples, two home runs and five RBIs in his past eight games.
The satisfaction from Rollins' homer was short-lived though.
Kendrick loaded the bases in the sixth with a single, a double and an intentional walk. He then walked pinch-hitter Jerry Hairston Jr. to force in a run, making it 4-3. Left-hander Raul Valdes took over from there, but he allowed a two-run single to Dee Gordon to make it 5-4.
"Sinker, missed a little down," Kendrick said of ball four to Hairston. "It was close. I don't know how he took it."
"They kind of took the momentum there in the fifth on Jimmy's homer with two outs, and we got it right back," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said.
Kendrick allowed four hits, five runs, five walks and struck out six in 5 2/3 innings. He snapped a streak of four consecutive starts of allowing two earned runs or fewer. But even then the Phillies had a chance to win.
"It's gotten bad right now," Manuel said. "Ain't nobody going to feel sorry for us, and we're definitely not going to postpone the game and quit playing. We have to keep playing. That's how I look at it. If you get knocked down, what do you do? You get up. That's what we've got to do. We have to keep coming at them."
The absences of Howard, Utley, Roy Halladay and others simply might be catching up to the Phillies.
"I can say this: Don't expect us to be in first place right now," Manuel said. "I can tell you that. That's kind of how I look at it. We're definitely trying our best. I can't get upset about that. I know our guys are trying. We're just not getting it done."
Said Wigginton: "Everybody in this room knows everybody can play the game. It's a matter of going out and doing it. I don't think, as baseball players, when there's an injury ... it's part of the game. Whether it's one guy, whether it's 12, it doesn't really matter. The next guy's got to step in there and play his game."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.