PHILADELPHIA—Maybe the Phillies have .500-caliber baseball in them.

The odds seem increasingly thin.

Either way, since when is that the burden of "success" in Philadelphia?

For the fifth time since falling under .500 on Apr. 14, the Phillies let an opportunity to break even in this maddening season slip, falling 9-2 to the Red Sox at Citizens Bank Park tonight.

"We want to get farther than .500," manager Charlie Manuel said. "Don't get me wrong. I'm not looking at .500 as no championship move or nothing like that. I'm looking at .500 as a place where we can get going a little bit and win about five or six games in a row. We might be back even right at the top of the league. That's what I'm talking about."

Maybe their biggest problem: For a must-have win, they were forced to lean on a 22-year-old rookie starter, Jonathan Pettibone, who’d before been brilliant but was due for a coming down to earth, even if momentarily. Such dependence is something playoff-caliber clubs don’t often have.

After having not allowed more than three runs in a single start, Pettibone surrendered four on four hits and a walk before logging his third out tonight. For a team that had only played five or more runs in 15 of 53 games so far, the next eight innings were all but a formality.

Pettibone’s problem wasn’t hitters adjusting to him. He was simply off tonight.

“That was part of the plan, pound some of those lefties in,” Pettibone said of David Ortiz, Jacoby Ellsbury and Daniel Nava, who went 4 for 9 with four walks and four runs scored. “I was kind of trying to be too fine, get too far in there.”

That said, cosmetics aside, Pettibone (3-1, 3.64 ERA) was tonight what he’d been in seven starts since replacing John Lannan. He let on 10 baserunners. He’d had nine or more in four of seven starts prior. The only difference: this time, he faced a jam he couldn’t finagle his way out of.

Though at least for Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s first-inning two-run double, off a first pitch Pettibone had premeditated pregame, maybe he should have.

“We even talked about it before the game: throw a changeup for a ball there,” Pettibone said. “So many things were running through my head at the time, I just kind of left it up in the zone.”

Pettibone and Tyler Cloyd have in their latest starts surrendered 10 runs in 7 1/3 innings.

Still, the scoreboard only showed a two-run hole through one inning.

Sans Ryan Howard (rest), Chase Utley (DL) and Michael Young (bereavement list), Manuel was forced into a lineup that featured Kevin Frandsen, Cesar Hernandez and Freddy Galvis, not exactly the most imposing offensive infield.

But more could’ve been done against Boston’s emergency replacement in the rotation, Francisco Morales, who made his 2013 debut tonight. He was only activated from the disabled list on Tuesday.

In 24 career starts prior, Morales was 8-7 with a 4.34 ERA.

Worse, tonight, he was exactly who the Phillies thought he’d be.

“He pitched like I thought he was gonna pitch,” Manuel said. “He threw a lot of fastballs. … You stand there and be patient, you’d get fastballs to hit.”

Such just isn't the Phillie way. So after two first-inning runs, on a Delmon Young shot to right, only one hit in four more frames against Morales followed.

Domonic Brown, baseball’s golden child this month, was a bit overaggressive on a stolen base attempt with two outs in the midst of a first-inning rally. He was thrown out at second to end the frame.

Erik Kratz, also tearing, grounded out into a double play with the bases loaded in the fourth. Not surprisingly, the Phillies .161 on-base percentage with three men on is second-worst in baseball.

“We didn’t muster enough offense,” Manuel said. “Kind of the same thing every day.”

Save for Mike Stutes, who tossed a clean eighth, the bullpen offered no relief.

Jeremy Horst and Chad Durbin surrendered six earned in four innings.

Durbin’s outing ups his ERA to 9.00 in 16 appearances this year. Horst’s earned runs were only his first since May 5, but the solo shots to Jonny Gomes and David Ortiz in the sixth and seventh deepened a two-run hole to four.

If not for a dearth of alternatives in the system – Cesar Jiminez would headline a crop of Phillippe Aumont, Raul Valdes, Joe Savery and B.J. Rosenberg – tonight could’ve been Horst’s and Durbin’s Phillie finale.

For the purgatory feel this season has assumed, no individual player or unit is to blame.

If only it was so easy.

“It’s a battle for us,” Manuel said. “To win games for us, it’s a battle.

“When we have Cliff Lee or (Cole) Hamels, (Kyle) Kendrick, whoever, throw a real close game, it’s still a battle for us to win at times. We haven’t blown too many people out. We don’t knock the cover off the ball. That’s what I’m talking about.

“In order for us to run off a winning streak or do better, we gotta score more runs of course.”