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TEX@PHI: Valdez makes a stellar play for the out

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies would love Chase Utley to step into the batter's box Monday night and magically solve their problems.

They would love to see him crush a home run in his first at-bat and rip a couple more balls into the gaps to fix a broken offense.

But that is Monday, when the Phillies will activate him from the disabled list for their series opener against the Reds. The Phillies played Sunday without Utley in a 2-0 loss to the Rangers at Citizens Bank Park. They managed just five hits and have scored three or fewer runs in nine consecutive games, which is the longest streak in the big leagues this season.

"Hopefully he is the answer," said center fielder Shane Victorino, who is on the disabled list with a strained right hamstring. "But you guys can't put pressure on him and say, 'Ooh, the offense is going to get better.' He's not the answer. People are trying to find one answer. There is no one answer. He's a big presence in our lineup -- leadership-wise, defensively, he's the total package. Yeah, he's a big piece of the puzzle, but we've got to keep battling collectively."

The Phils spoiled a nice effort from Roy Oswalt, who made his second start since returning from the DL with lower back inflammation. He allowed eight hits, two walks and hit two batters in seven innings. He struck out three.

"I feel pretty good," Oswalt said, asked if he feels 100 percent healthy. "I'm getting better for sure. Arm strength isn't all the way back, but it's better."

He pitched well, but suffered the same fate as other Philadelphia starters. He got no run support.

"You kind of got to dance between raindrops out there," Oswalt said, asked if he has to pitch differently knowing he has no room for error, "and not give up too many hits in one inning. One or two here and there, but you have to make big pitches at big times."

It is the first time Oswalt has lost a game in 13 starts at Citizens Bank Park. He is 10-1 with a 2.16 ERA (21 earned runs in 87 2/3 innings) in Philadelphia.

Oswalt allowed a run in the sixth inning when Michael Young singled to right field and Mitch Moreland doubled over left fielder Raul Ibanez's head to score him. It immediately felt like it would be enough to beat the Phils with the way they have been swinging the bats lately.

"My job is to keep the other offense off the board," Oswalt said. "It was going pretty well, but I left a ball over the plate to [Moreland]."

The Phils are used to these scoring droughts. They scored three or fewer runs in 12 consecutive games last season (May 22-June 4), which was the longest streak in the big leagues last year and tied a franchise record in the live-ball era. The Phillies also had a 12-game streak from the end of the 1967 season into the beginning of the '68 season.

The club would love to snap the streak soon. The Phils need some clutch hits. They have not scored more than one run on a single, double or triple since May 11, when Jimmy Rollins scored two runs on a single in the ninth in a 5-3 victory over the Marlins at Sun Life Stadium.

"We're gonna bottom out one of these days," manager Charlie Manuel said. "Hopefully it was today."

"You don't ever know what's going to happen until you play," Oswalt said. "The next 10 games, we could score 10 every game and nothing would be said about the last 10 games."

The Phillies would settle for four runs a game at this point. They are 17-2 when they score four or more runs.

Maybe Utley is the answer. Maybe not. But at least he has an opportunity to try Monday.

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