ST. LOUIS -- It was a successful trip that ended on a sour note. Make that two sour notes.
The Phillies won their first five games on the trip, but they dropped the last two, including Sunday's 5-3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium.
A week ago, the Phillies seemed buried after a 3-0 loss to the Chicago Cubs left them 61/2 games out of first place. They did gain ground on the trip that began with a three-game sweep in Atlanta, but not enough to really know if they are going to be buyers or sellers by the July 31 trade deadline.
The Phillies (34-40) are five games behind first-place Washington in the National League East.
What the Phillies did on this trip was show a competitive pulse, but the last two days might have sapped any momentum they hoped to have as they begin an eight-game homestand Monday against Miami.
Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg saw some positives until the last two games, when the Phillies had a total of two extra-base hits. One of those extra-base hits was by Saturday's losing pitcher, Cole Hamels.
"We put a lot of the parts of the game together to have a road trip like we had, but it didn't quite end like we wanted it to," Sandberg said.
Trailing, 5-3, the Phillies brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth inning after Cody Asche hit a one-out single off closer Trevor Rosenthal.
The Phillies then used two pinch-hitters. Carlos Ruiz struck out and Marlon Byrd lined out to second.
Jimmy Rollins saw his hitting streak snapped after 15 games. Rollins was 0 for 4. He reached base in his final at-bat, but it was because of a throwing error by shortstop Jhonny Peralta on a routine play.
Rollins had exactly one hit in each of the 15 games, going 15 for 60 (. 250). He is hitting .244 overall.
The Phillies took a 3-0 lead with three second-inning runs.
Ryan Howard opened the inning with a base hit past third. With the Cardinals employing a shift, there was no fielder near the base. John Mayberry Jr. was hit by a pitch. Domonic Brown walked on four pitches to load the bases.
Asche then hit a 98-m.p.h. fastball off righthander Carlos Martinez for three-run double to left-center field.
From there the offense sagged, but the Phillies insist their spirits have not.
"Obviously, I wish we could have taken the last two games and complete a perfect road trip, but I think we got confidence heading into an important homestand," Asche said.
Martinez settled down after the second. He allowed three runs in five innings.
The Cardinals, who are averaging 3.7 runs per game, scored four in the fourth inning on Kyle Kendrick.
First baseman Matt Adams hit a one-out double off the center-field wall. Allen Craig then walked. Yadier Molina's single to shallow right field loaded the bases. Jon Jay knocked in the first run with a single to right. Peralta tied the score with a two-run single to shallow center.
Ben Revere, in his first start since Monday after suffering a bruised left knee, had a weak throw home that was cut off by Howard. Mark Ellis then executed a safety squeeze for the fourth run, scoring Jay.
The Cardinals increased the lead to 5-3 with a run in the sixth on a two-out RBI single to right by Ellis, who is hitting .193.
"They got some hits; it happens," Kendrick said about the Cardinals' fourth inning.
It wasn't the most thought-provoking explanation, and in a way it's kind of like the Phillies' immediate future. There are plenty of questions about whether they are contenders, and at this point, the answers lack any true conviction.
(c)2014 The Philadelphia Inquirer
Visit The Philadelphia Inquirer at www.philly.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services