PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Phillies manager Charlie Manuel has an idea why his lineup is struggling so much.
Philadelphia, which has scored three runs or fewer in 13 of its 21 games, managed just four hits and had 11 strikeouts against Pirates starter Jeff Locke and three relievers in a 2-0 loss to Pittsburgh on Tuesday night.
``I think they're trying, maybe a little bit too hard,' Manuel said of his hitters. ``But you have to get it done.'
Michael Young extended his hitting streak to 14 games with an eighth-inning single for the Phillies, who were shut out for the third time this season.
Locke pitched six innings of two-hit ball and Gaby Sanchez homered off Cole Hamels to lead the Pirates.
``That's his best big league performance,' Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of Locke, who was making his 14th career start. ``That was six innings of big league pitching. He made pitches; he flat-out made pitches.'
Manuel thought the Phillies could have solved Locke, who challenged them with fastballs, if they remained patient. Apparently, they did not.
``It wasn't like he was doing anything fantastic,' Manuel said. ``He pitched a good game. If you were patient and went up there and looked for fastball, you probably would get some good balls to hit.'
Locke (2-1) struck out six and walked two. After wriggling out of a jam in the fourth, he retired his last eight batters - striking out three of the final four.
``It all just clicked today,' Locke said. ``The big thing is I was able to get ahead, something I've stressed the last few starts. It's great to compete and get through it and know that you can do it.'
Sanchez also doubled and Brandon Inge had an RBI double in his Pirates debut to help Pittsburgh win for the fifth time in seven games.
After opening the season with a pair of poor outings, Hamels (0-3) pitched well for the third straight start but was hurt by a lack of run support again.
``He pitched a heck of a game,' Manuel said. ``He had good stuff. We couldn't get him runs.'
In eight innings, the left-hander gave up two runs on seven hits with six strikeouts and one walk.
``Just being able to really get in a groove and go deep in the ballgame was something I was pleased with,' Hamels said. ``My pitches felt really good and I had a clean feel of making my pitches. I was pretty happy, but obviously with the results, I want the team to win.'
That had more to do with the hitters than Hamels.
``We have to improve our game,' Manuel said. ``We have to hit some of those fastballs.'
Jason Grilli pitched the ninth for his eighth save in eight chances. Grilli hasn't given up a run and has allowed just three hits with 15 strikeouts in nine innings this season.
Philadelphia appeared poised to score against Locke when John Mayberry Jr. led off the fourth with a triple and Locke hit Domonic Brown with a pitch to put runners on first and third with none out.
But Mayberry, running on contact, was tagged out trying to score on Ben Revere's weakly hit grounder to third and Erik Kratz hit into an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play to keep Philadelphia scoreless.
``We're battling,' Brown said. ``All of us are mechanically sound. It's definitely mental right now. We'll get out of it.'
Offensive struggles have been a theme for much of the season for the Phillies. Manuel has tinkered with the lineup and remains hopeful that this core of mostly proven hitters will turn things around.
``I try to think of things all the time to change, but I don't see where I can change very much,' he said. ``We just have to come out here and keep working and keep at it and hope we improve and do better.'
And Manuel said his players, regardless of their pedigree, have to work to improve.
``The game doesn't care how much money you make,' he said. ``The game can bite you. You have to stay at it, keep on working, you have to love to play and come to the ballpark every day wanting to play and get after it. That's when you become an everyday player. You can be the best player in the world, but you've got to hit. If you don't hit, they're going to look for somebody who can hit.'
Hamels carried a 10.97 ERA after his first two outings, but has pitched more like the three-time All-Star he is in his last three with a 2.57 ERA in those outings. Still, he has nothing to show for it as Philadelphia's slumping offense has done little for him - as it has for most of the Phillies' pitchers this season.
Hamels said the lack of support might have bothered him as a younger player, but not now.
``I know what I can control and what I can't,' he said. ``And if I'm able to go out and execute pitches, pitch deep in the ballgame, try to limit the damage to keep the team within an area of being able to get a win, that's all I can do.'
Philadelphia got a runner to second in the eighth against reliever Mark Melancon when pinch-hitter Laynce Nix singled and moved up on Young's two-out single. But Ryan Howard grounded out to end the threat.
Howard went 1 for 4 with two strikeouts and was one of several Phillies hitters who was booed by the crowd of 31,002 on a chilly evening.
NOTES: Phillies second baseman Chase Utley didn't start, but struck out while pinch-hitting in the eighth. He remained in the game in the ninth. ... Philadelphia RHP Roy Halladay (2-2, 6.04 ERA) is scheduled to face Pirates lefty Wandy Rodriguez (2-0, 0.56) on Wednesday night in the third game of the four-game series.
The Associated Press News Service
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