NEW YORK -- This is why the Phillies could be sellers before the July 31 Trade Deadline.
They had a chance to take two of three from the Mets this week at Citi Field, building momentum entering their final series before the All-Star break, momentum that would have continued to build Friday with Ryan Howard likely to start at first base in the series opener against the Atlanta Braves at Citizens Bank Park. But disaster struck in the ninth inning in Thursday's 6-5 loss, giving the Phillies one fewer win and one fewer game to play as the deadline approaches.
"This one is on my shoulders," said Jonathan Papelbon, who blew his second save of the season. "And when I take them on my shoulders, I take them pretty seriously. I just have to come back, keep fighting and keep throwing blows. It's a long season."
It is a long season in April, but it is the first week of July. The Phillies have 78 games to play, but only 18 before the Trade Deadline.
That's 18 games to convince the front office they should be buyers, not sellers. Right now, the Phillies are 37-47 and 13 games behind the first-place Nationals in the National League East. They are 8 1/2 games out of a Wild Card spot.
"We've played a lot of baseball, seen a lot," Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels said. "We've seen games where you're battling, battling and battling, and you don't get it in the end. It's tough. We have a game tomorrow. We have to come back and deal with the Braves, who are obviously just as good and ahead of us in the standings. We have to go out and fight, wash this one away as fast as we can."
Papelbon said the best lesson he learned from Yankees closer Mariano Rivera is a short memory. There is little doubt Papelbon will be able to forget about his disastrous ninth.
But can the team move on from another tough loss?
"I'm concerned about that," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "But at the same time, we have to keep going. We have two ways to go. I don't think we're going to feel sorry for ourselves and nobody else is. We have to come out and play and try to win tomorrow. That's what we have to do. That's what we will do."
Papelbon allowed a leadoff double to Ike Davis. Pinch-runner Ronny Cedeno advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt. Kirk Nieuwenhuis struck out for the second out, but Papelbon hit Jordany Valdespin with a 3-2 pitch to put runners at the corners. Papelbon walked Ruben Tejada in an eight-pitch at-bat to load the bases.
Daniel Murphy then ripped a ball of Papelbon's left foot. The ball ricocheted toward the first-base line, allowing the tying run to score. Papelbon slipped and fell as he picked up the ball. He said he thought he could have made the throw to first if he had kept his footing. Maybe he could have, but then David Wright hit a flare into right field, falling in front of Hunter Pence for the game-winner.
"I have to turn the page and move on," Papelbon said. "I don't sit there and say, 'Should've, could've, would've.' You have to keep grinding. Bloop hit to right, David fights it off. Sometimes you can't do really much about it."
It wasted what should have been a good night for the Phillies.
Hamels recovered after allowing a two-run home run to Wright in the fifth inning to give the Mets a 4-3 lead. Hamels retired seven of the final eight batters he faced, including a perfect seventh inning which he started after having already thrown 109 pitches.
It was a strong finish from Hamels, who is at the center of trade speculation as the Phillies sit in last place. Hamels and the rest of the Phillies can end those talks with a good finish before the break and a strong finish before the Trade Deadline.
"It's up to us," Roy Halladay said earlier this week.
He is right about that, but so far the Phillies are not doing it.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.