PHILADELPHIA - Charlie Manuel says he still believes his team can make the playoffs.
"We've got to play probably the best baseball we've ever played," in the second half of the season, the Philadelphia Phillies manager said Sunday.
The five-time defending National League East champions do indeed face a tall order.
Shane Victorino is batting .245 for the Philadelphia Phillies this season.
AP file photo
The Phillies are last in the division after losing 10 of their final11 games before the All-Star break, and are 13 games under .500 - 14 games behind the first-place Washington Nationals.
Feeling down over a slump, Shane Victorino talked with Manuel before Philadelphia's game Sunday and was scratched from the seventh spot in the starting lineup about an hour before the first pitch. Manuel said Victorino, a St. Anthony High School graduate, did not ask out of the lineup.
"That's the first time I've seen him acting like that," Manuel said. "He's going through a tough time."
Victorino, a two-time All-Star selection who has been the subject of trade rumors, is batting .245 this season with eight home runs and 37 RBIs. His 19 stolen bases, however, rank eighth in the NL.
There are some other bright spots, too. The team's batting average is .262, fourth in the NL. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard recently returned from injuries, though that didn't create an immediate turnaround.
Two-time Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay will throw a bullpen session Tuesday in Clearwater, Fla., and, if all goes well, could make a rehabilitation start there Thursday. He likely will have to be healthy and effective in a hurry if the Phillies are to make a run toward a sixth straight postseason appearance.
"I believe we can (make the playoffs) because I'll always believe," Manuel said.
"Have I tried everything?
I think I have, yes. But at the same time, I'm still wil-ling to try something else. I'll keep trying."