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SF@PHI: Manuel on facing Lincecum following 4-1 loss

PHILADELPHIA -- It was a bold thing to say after another loss to the team that has become the biggest thorn in the Phillies' side since last year. It was the kind of statement a manager oftentimes feeds the media to send his team a pick-me-up.

"If you want to know the truth, I know we can get 'em," manager Charlie Manuel said after Thursday's 4-1 loss to the Giants. "It's just a matter of us putting it together and for us to play the right way. And that's pitch, hit and play good defense."

Manuel did not need to say this, not with a return trip to San Francisco next Thursday and not unless he felt he had to ensure his team's focus was intact heading into a weekend full of distraction, full of speculation of who's coming and going before Sunday's non-waiver Trade Deadline.

But this is his biggest strength as manager. It is why it is almost impossible to see him lose this clubhouse. He won't back down, knowing his team respects him so that they'll run to his defense, pick up a bat and join the fight.

Before this three-game series with the Giants started, Manuel said there will be a reckoning day to earn revenge against the team that eliminated his club's perch atop the National League.

He knew quite well it would not be in July. He knew this three-game series would offer a chance for each team to feel the other out, that regardless of results, the two sides would meet again for a four-game set and perhaps in October.

Which is why the message was sent this night, fresh off a second straight toothless showing by the offense against one of the Giants' aces. Wednesday it was Matt Cain. Thursday, Tim Lincecum rekindled memories of a painful October by scattering three hits -- one of which came from pitcher Kyle Kendrick -- over six innings and walking four.

There was little Manuel could say about the Giants' pitching that could be less flattering one night after Cain allowed one run in seven innings and two days after Lincecum was a late scratch because of food poisoning.

"To me, I don't know how great they are," Manuel said. "I think as they move on into their careers, there's the longevity part and things like that. I think that's when the greatness might come by. This is a consistent game. When you say somebody is great ... tonight I saw 90 [mph] fastball, 92 at the best. I saw a good changeup. I saw a breaking ball. I saw a cutter. Good pitching, but at the same time we can beat that. I've seen us do that."

Just not this night.

Chase Utley drove in the Phillies' only run against lefty Jeremy Affeldt in the seventh, but Ryan Howard, representing the tying run, grounded out softly to pitcher.

Kendrick kept his team in the game, allowing three earned runs in 6 1/3 innings. It was 2-0 in the seventh, but with a steady rain falling, third baseman Michael Martinez mishandled a grounder as Nate Schierholtz broke for the plate. Conceding the run, Martinez then fired high over the glove of first baseman Howard, allowing catcher Chris Stewart to score from first and pinch-hitter Aaron Rowand to reach second.

It was just the second time this season the Phillies lost back-to-back games at Citizens Bank Park. It was also the first time they lost back-to-back games since June 3-4 at Pittsburgh and the first series loss since June 17-19 at Seattle.

"We know they have good pitching," Kendrick said. "They pitched well this series. But like guys were saying, it's nothing to worry about. It's early. They have good pitching. They did well. I'm sure we'll see them later."

What is unknown, and what can change between now and next week, is the makeup of the Phillies' offense, which is seeking a right-handed bat to balance out the lineup.

Carlos Beltran, the most coveted bat, one the Phillies considered but never seriously pursued, made his Giants debut. Not long into his introductory press conference before the game, Beltran was asked about fitting in with his new teammates. Off to the side sat his new manager, Bruce Bochy, the slyest grin in the room smeared on his face.

Manuel restated the Giants got better in the long haul by adding Beltran. And only the Phils skipper best knows what a psychological blow two losses and an offensive upgrade could do to his team that has coasted to the best record in the Majors up to this point.

He had to send a message.

"They're not in our heads," he said. "I don't think so. Really, I don't think so at all. It's just the fact we've got to get after them."

Message sent and, he hopes, received.

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