PHILADELPHIA—If only it was only Chase Utley’s absence.

But his replacement at second base for the Phillies tonight, Freddy Galvis, wasn’t responsible for any of fielding gaffes that cost them, and if anything bailed them out.

And Utley himself has stumbled as much against lefties this year as the rest of the lineup did tonight against Pittsburgh Pirates southpaw starter Jeff Locke.

So no, the 2-0 loss (11-9) at Citizens Bank Park tonight was bigger than that.

What felled the Phillies (9-12) tonight were long-lived issues: not hitting lefties, or in the clutch; shoddy fielding; cashing in when starting pitchers are money; plate patience.

 

Worse, problems of old have seemed to breed problems of new: opposing starters just don’t seem to fear this lineup. Not even 25-year-old 40th man types like Locke.

“He threw a lot of fastballs,” manager Charlie Manuel said of Locke. “Kind of challenged us. He definitely would give you something good to hit if you were patient, really.

“He came right at us.”

Manuel wasn’t surprised by the repertoire. Just the results.

“I thought we were gonna hit some fastballs if he was going to throw us fastballs,” he said. “I thought we were going to hit him. But we didn’t.”

The result? A wasted gem from Cole Hamels (0-3, 5.40 ERA), who went eight strong and surrendered only two runs, one a solo home run from Gaby Sanchez in the eighth.

And the Phillies fifth loss in eight games, and third via shutout in the span.

The Phillies have now lost five straight Hamels starts, for the first time ever.

Hamels struck out six and walked only one. He dealt first-pitch strikes to 24 of 35 batters tonight, with 82 of 118 total pitches going for strikes.

Only four wins have come of starts from Hamels, Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay.

Manuel said he could see the lack of offense being frustrating to his arms, and festering.

 

“Oh, I think it definitely happens,” Manuel said. “I don’t know what you can do to stop that. If a pitcher’s out there and he feels like you’re not going to get him any runs – I’ve been in the game a long time, and he definitely feels that. He sees that.”

Hamels was in good spirits after. Disappointed for the team and miffed about the run support. for sure. But after being overly critical following each of his previous starts this year, Hamels for the first time seemed comfortable with his contribution.

“Pretty good for the temperature of the game,” he said. “But just being able to really get in a groove and go deep in a ball game, I think that was something I was pleased with.”

Hamels said he felt good every inning. He looked it, too.

He didn’t look upset about the offense. Compartmentalization, maybe.

“Maybe about four or five years ago that’d be frustrating,” he said. “I know what I can control and what I can’t. If I’m able to go out and execute pitches, pitch deep in ball games, obviously try to limit the damage to keep the team (close), that’s all I can do. That’s what experience helps with. You have to see the best in what’s going on.”

The worst was easy to see.

Jimmy Rollins was charged for an error for booting a Neil Walker rope in the second. But another could’ve-been out, also off the bat of Walker, became the game’s first run.

Michael Young muffed one to let Andrew McCutchen reach in the first.

Young made up for it later, bellying to save a would’ve-been RBI from Brandon Inge down down the line and throwing from foul territory for the out. And Ben Revere and Galvis were, as always, stellar in the field and bailed the Phillies out a few times.

Rollins had no such retributive play, in the field or at the plate.

With men on second and third with two outs in the second inning, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle opted to pitch to Rollins with first unoccupied.

This, after a mound visit with Locke, who entered with a 5.17 ERA, the second-worst strikeout-to-walk ratio in baseball and a .389/.450/.500 line against lefties.

Rollins struck out to strand two.

He wasn’t the only one to struggle.

The lineup went 0 for 5 with men in scoring position. They mustered only four hits total.

The Phillies wasted a John Mayberry, Jr. standup leadoff triple in the fourth. Mayberry was thrown out trying to take home without a force. He looked to be running on contact.

 

"That's how you play it," Manuel said.

Erik Kratz hit into an inning-ending double play with Dom Brown and Revere on first and third.

Ryan Howard belted one and stretched to second to put Young on third in the first inning. But Mayberry grounded out to end the frame.

Mayberry's now stranded six in two games.

 

Howard grounded out to end the eighth with Laynce Nix and Young on base.

Nix boomed a pinch-hit lead-off single. He’s now 6 for 11 with two home runs, two doubles and five RBI coming off Manuel’s bench.

Young had singled to extend his hit streak to 14 games.

 

Manuel doesn’t know the fix. But he can identify the issue.

“It’s called competition,” he said. “You have to compete. And that’s the part where you really like it. Because it’s you against that pitcher and the people on the field. That’s what baseball’s all about. That’s the beauty of the game. That’s the part that you love.”

Games like this make it hard for his Phillies to feel the same.