NEW YORK -- Before Sunday's game against the Phillies, Mets manager Jerry Manuel told the media "now is the time" for the team to make its playoff push.

He must not have told his hitters.

As has become the theme of the Mets' second half, their starting pitcher turned in a solid outing that went to waste.

Mike Pelfrey allowed three runs over seven innings, but the Mets (58-59) fell to the Phillies, 3-1, in the rubber game of the series.

"Whether we're going out there and putting up 10 runs or one run, your mindset is you go out and there, and you try to get people out and you try to throw up zeros," Pelfrey said. "It doesn't change with your circumstance."

The loss put the Mets 10 games behind the Braves in the National League East and eight games behind the second-place Phillies (66-51).

With only 45 games remaining, the window for the Mets to make a run is closing, but the team needs only to recall recent history between the two squads that played Sunday night for a reason to keep the faith.

In 2007, the Mets coughed up a seven-game division lead over the final 17 games of the season, giving the Phillies the NL East title and a ticket to the postseason.

"I honestly believe that we still have a run in us," Pelfrey said. "It's better sooner than later. I think you gotta remember in '07 ... so anything can happen."

While Pelfrey and the pitching staff have been mostly good, the offense has been anemic.

Jose Reyes led off the bottom of the third inning with a home run off the right-field foul pole, the only run the team would muster against starter Kyle Kendrick, who struck out four over 6 2/3 innings.

The Mets totaled two runs over three games against the Phillies and have scored one or zero runs in seven of 13 games in August.

On Saturday, Pat Misch took a loss against the Phillies despite surrendering only one earned run, and Jonathon Niese earned a no-decision in a 6-2 loss to the Rockies on Wednesday after striking out seven and giving up one run in seven innings.

"Not right now, no [we don't have enough offense]," Manuel said. "The way we're struggling right now, we're not swinging well right now. I think we have enough in the personnel. I think that's probably the question. When [Carlos] Beltran is right, when David Wright is right, when [Ike] Davis is right we have enough. We haven't unlocked that formula for a long time."

Manuel has tried to rotate players in and out of the lineup, play matchups and keep his hitters fresh, but nothing has worked.

The team scored nine runs on this homestand, their lowest total of the season, and hit .088 (3-for-34) with runners in scoring position.

"I think the numbers speak for themselves," Wright said. "We're not putting ourselves in a position to score runs."

Roy Halladay blanked the Mets over eight innings Saturday night, and Kendrick followed that up with a stellar performance against a lineup that was stacked against him. Manuel started as many lefties as he could against the right-handed Kendrick, but the results were the same. Wright was the only starter other than Pelfrey to hit from the right side.

"That's what everyone does to me," Kendrick said. "I've got to pitch inside more, and that's what I did today."

The Mets next travel to Houston and Pittsburgh, two teams that combine for a .386 win percentage, so if the team is to start the run that Manuel spoke of, now is as good of a time as any.

"Until you get out-out, you still feel like you can put a run together," Manuel said.

Out-out is getting a lot closer.