SAN DIEGO -- Most of the losses have blended together at this point, but one only needed to look around the Phillies' clubhouse late Monday night at Petco Park to see this one hit everybody particularly hard.
This one hurt.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel sat dejectedly behind the desk in his office as he recounted the final two innings of the 4-3 loss to the Padres in 10 innings, in which his team blew a three-run lead in the ninth. Manuel arrived at the ballpark sicker than a dog. He returned to the team hotel feeling as bad or worse.
"I had different things I could have done," he said softly. "There are some options there. Evidently, I didn't choose the right one."
Carlos Ruiz buried his head in his locker afterward. He allowed a passed ball that allowed the tying run to score in the ninth.
"I don't have anything to say," he said. "I expected to catch the ball. I missed it."
Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon looked stunned as he spoke about his fourth blown save in eight days and another brutal late-inning collapse.
"[Stuff] happens," he said.
It has been this way since the beginning of the season for the Phillies, who dropped to 36-41. They could have opened a 10-game road trip through San Diego, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh with a nice victory behind a superb effort from Cliff Lee. But a series of events left the manager and his players discussing a terrible loss instead.
Everything went south in the ninth. The Phillies warmed up Papelbon in the top half of the inning with Lee already having thrown 109 pitches in eight scoreless innings. But when Ruiz struck out with a runner on second for the second out, Manuel elected to have Lee hit instead of sending Ryan Howard to the plate to pinch-hit. Lee struck out for the fourth time to end the inning.
"I wanted to send him back out there," Manuel said. "If two guys had gotten on base I definitely would have hit for him. We got two outs and a three-run lead, I figure I'd let him go."
Lee appreciated the gesture. He said he felt strong and wanted to finish the game.
But after dominating the Padres through eight innings, everything changed in the span of three pitches. Carlos Quentin hit a first-pitch fastball for a single and Chase Headley hit a 1-0 cutter for a double to put runners on second and third with no outs. Manuel pulled Lee for Papelbon, but Kyle Blanks hit a soft line drive to center field to score both runners and make it a one-run game. Papelbon then hit Jesus Guzman with a pitch to put the tying run at second and the winning run at first.
Yasmani Grandal hit into a double play, and Blanks to third on the play. Papelbon then threw a 2-0 splitter to pinch-hitter Mark Kotsay that went underneath Ruiz's glove. The ball rolled behind the plate, and Ruiz could not retrieve the ball in time as Blanks scored the tying run.
Papelbon said warming up in the top of the inning only to start the inning with runners on second and third had no effect on his performance. Regardless, Papelbon has blown four saves in his last five opportunities.
"He's in a little funk," Manuel said.
Right-hander Justin De Fratus retired the first batter he faced in the 10th, but then allowed two walks around a hit batter to load the bases with one out. Blanks singled down the left-field line to score the winning run and leave the Phillies asking themselves one question:
How did they really lose a game with Lee taking a 3-0 lead into the ninth?
"It's definitely heartbreaking," De Fratus said. "Anytime Cliff has a lead you feel pretty confident that this game is ours. It just fell apart at the end. There is no reason why, no excuses. It's just the game of baseball. It happened. It's tough. It's tough."
"I don't know what to say," Lee said. "I felt like I pitched good and gave us a chance to win and it just didn't happen."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.