NEW YORK -- The Phillies hoped and prayed Chase Utley would provide the spark they desperately needed to save their season.
They are 0-6 since his return.
So maybe Ryan Howard can provide a lift? Maybe he can give the Phillies a little energy?
"He ain't going to make a difference in [a game like this]," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said following Tuesday's 11-1 loss to the New York Mets at Citi Field, "unless he just has a heck of a night. Get some hits and score some runs. That'll bring energy."
Manuel is right about that. Howard and Utley can only do so much. Even Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig needed support in the lineup, good pitching and good defense.
The Phillies have fallen to 36-46, the first time they have been 10 games under .500 since July 22, 2002. Seven days later, the Phillies traded Scott Rolen and Doug Nickle to the St. Louis Cardinals for Placido Polanco, Mike Timlin and Bud Smith.
With the Nationals' victory over the Giants on Tuesday, the Phillies are 12 games out of first place, the first time they have been that far back since they finished the 2006 season 12 behind the Mets.
The Phillies are 8-21 since they were 28-25 and 2 1/2 games out of first place on June 1. They have the worst record in baseball in that span.
June 1 seems like ancient history, doesn't it?
And doesn't it seem like forever since Utley and Carlos Ruiz hit back-to-back home runs in the first inning against the Pirates last Wednesday at Citizens Bank Park? For a flash, every Phillies fan had to have been thinking the same thing: "OK, this is the beginning of the turnaround."
Except it wasn't. It was the beginning of a six-game losing streak.
The Phillies' dugout is a quiet place these days, especially late Tuesday.
"It wasn't at the start of the game," Manuel said. "Then when Ruiz hit that home run [to tie the game in the second], that kind of picked us up. We definitely had enough life. I guess the Mets just knocked the life out of us."
Phillies right-hander Vance Worley suffered one of the worst starts of his short career. He allowed 10 hits, six runs, one walk and struck out three in four innings. He had not allowed six runs in a start since Aug. 10, 2011, when he allowed six in four innings in Los Angeles. He allowed eight runs in three innings against the Mets at Citi Field on May 29, 2011, for the worst start of his career.
He left with the Phillies trailing 6-1.
"My bullpen went well and I felt really good out there today," said Worley, who had a 2.70 ERA in his previous five starts. "It just didn't go my way. My last couple outings, I had worse control and got away with it. I was just trying to get the ball into play early, and they hit the ball."
Said Manuel: "He keeps you in the game, and most times he gives you a chance to win. Tonight, they got on him."
Mets left-hander Jon Niese pitched brilliantly. He allowed three hits, one run, two walks and struck out three in eight innings. Any chances of a Phillies comeback were sealed when left-hander Raul Valdes put two runners on in the sixth and Brian Sanches relieved him, only to allow a three-run home run to David Wright to make it 9-1.
The Phillies have scored seven runs in their last four games.
"That's just something that happens," Manuel said. "I mean, when you're not playing good, that'll happen quite a bit. That's what's happened with us. Tonight was a blowout. We haven't been getting blown out, but we did tonight."
The good news is Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels pitch the final two games of this three-game series. The bad news is the Phillies have not won any of Lee's starts since May 30, a stretch of five consecutive starts without a win. The Phillies have lost four of Hamels' last six starts, including his last two.
Time to worry?
"No," Worley said. "I'm not worried about it. All we can do is worry about going out there and playing."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.