PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies have been a mostly lifeless bunch since they popped champagne and partied Saturday at Citizens Bank Park.
The lull is somewhat understandable. They clinched their fifth consecutive National League East title in their 150th game, leaving them 12 mostly meaningless games before Game 1 of the NL Division Series on Oct. 1. It turned into 10 mostly meaningless games following Monday's 4-3 loss to the Cardinals, especially after they clinched home-field advantage throughout the postseason following the Brewers' loss to the Cubs at Wrigley Field.
Of course, it is easy to say a team is flat when it is not scoring runs, and the reality of the situation is the Phils have not been scoring runs for more than a week.
Catcher Carlos Ruiz sounds like he has seen enough.
"Everything starts right now," he said.
Roy Halladay, who allowed four runs in eight innings to take the loss, would like to see his team head into the postseason playing better.
"Flat, I don't know," he said. "I think it's important for us right now to try and play to win games. I think that's important. I think guys are real conscious of how they want to feel going into the postseason, and that's important also. But I think it's important we do keep that energy up and play games like there's some meaning to it. I think that's important. It's hard to just flip that switch."
The Phillies have averaged just 2.5 runs in their past 11 games, hitting .223 with a .284 on-base percentage and a .334 slugging percentage. It has not helped that they have been without their everyday lineup. Chase Utley missed the first half of that stretch because of a concussion. Ryan Howard has missed time because of bursitis in his left ankle. Jimmy Rollins has rested a few games, coming back from a groin injury.
Halladay (18-6) allowed six hits and four runs in eight innings. He walked four (two were intentional) and struck out six. He no longer has a shot to win 20 games because his final start is scheduled for Saturday against the Mets at Citi Field. His next start after that is expected to be Game 1 of the NLDS.
The Cards took a 2-0 lead in the first inning when Rafael Furcal doubled and scored on a fielder's choice and Lance Berkman homered to right field. Berkman helped St. Louis to a 3-1 lead in the third when he singled to center field to score Kyle Lohse.
"We just tried to keep it simple, just competing," Cards manager Tony La Russa said. "We know who we're facing, not just the team, but the pitcher."
Halladay intentionally walked Berkman in the fifth and seventh. Halladay had intentionally walked just three batters in nearly two seasons with the Phillies until Monday. It was just the third time in his career he intentionally walked two batters in the same game: June 12, 2002, against San Francisco (Barry Bonds twice) and April 9, 2006, against Tampa Bay (Carl Crawford and Aubrey Huff).
Philadelphia scored a run in the second and two in the ninth to make things interesting, but fell to a team playing for a postseason berth. The Cardinals are just 2 1/2 games behind the Braves in the NL Wild Card race.
The Cardinals went 6-3 against the Phillies this season. They would meet in the NLDS if the Cardinals won the Wild Card.
"I can tell you we'd feel confident," Halladay said. "In baseball there's really no such thing as a litmus test. Three or four games here doesn't necessarily guarantee anything down the road. We feel like we have a very good team. A four-game series a couple weeks before the playoffs isn't something we're going to be thinking about. They do obviously have a good team also.
"Once you get into the postseason, there are no easy teams. We're going to have to play hard and do the right things no matter who we're playing, but I don't think we're looking at this as a forecast of what could happen down the road. We know what we need to do, regardless of who we're playing."
The Phillies know they need to start playing better. They also know they're a good team.
They're not going to panic.
"I ain't going to jump off the Walt Whitman bridge," manager Charlie Manuel said.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.