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MIL@PHI: Byrd homers to put the Phils on the board

PHILADELPHIA -- Ryan Howard kept a stiff upper lip Thursday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park.

The Phillies had lost three consecutive games in sloppy fashion and needed to beat the Brewers in the series finale Thursday night to avoid a sweep and a 3-6 start with Marlins ace Jose Fernandez on the mound Friday.

"In all actuality, we've actually played very well this year," Howard said before the 6-2 loss to the Brewers. "I disagree with everyone else. Our record doesn't reflect that right now, but I think we've played well. It's eight games and you guys are trying to start a panic attack. Really, if you want to panic, go ahead and panic. But don't bring it around here."

It is too early to panic, but it isn't too early to wonder and worry about a slow start for a team that lost 89 games last season.

The Phillies cannot afford to bury themselves.

"You want to start fast and finish the same way, try to ride it out," Marlon Byrd said afterward. "It's one of those things right now where it didn't start that way for us. There's nothing we can do, you can't go back. We have to figure out how to start winning series. It starts tomorrow."

It is hard to believe, but just a few days ago the Phillies left Wrigley Field talking about how they easily could have been 4-2 or even 5-1 on a season-opening road trip through Texas and Chicago, if not for a couple of ninth-inning failures by the bullpen in Texas. Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins said he looked forward to the trip home, dreaming of the possibilities of a 10-game homestand, saying how much he would love to go 9-1 to get the fanbase excited again.

But the white-hot Brewers, who swept the Phillies on the road for the first time in franchise history, cruised to three easy victories.

"The good news is they're going out of town," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said.

The Phillies took a 1-0 lead in the second inning when Byrd hit a solo home run to left field, his second homer of the season.

But the lead wouldn't last. Phillies pitchers might need therapy to remove visions of Ryan Braun from their heads. He hit three home runs in Tuesday's 10-3 victory and tripled to score two runs in the eighth inning in Wednesday's 9-4 victory. He then hit a leadoff single to left field in the fourth inning Thursday. He scored when Aramis Ramirez doubled to left-center field to make it 1-1.

Phillies fans booed Braun as much as they could this week.

Braun loved it. He entered the series with no RBIs. He left with 10.

Ramirez advanced to third on a fielder's choice and scored on Khris Davis' single to left field to make it 2-1.

A one-run deficit in a low-scoring game has been a familiar position for Phillies left-hander Cliff Lee, who allowed eight hits, three runs and struck out eight in six innings. Since he re-signed with the Phillies in December 2010, his 3.87 run support average is the eighth-lowest in baseball out of 84 qualifying pitchers.

He might have figured it would be one of those nights again. The Phillies offense has been mostly powerless since scoring 14 runs Opening Day on March 31. They entered Thursday averaging 3.57 runs per game since Opening Day, which ranked 21st in baseball. They also ranked 25th with a .197 batting average with runners in scoring position.

Lee allowed a run in the sixth to make it 3-1 when he gave up back-to-back two-out doubles to Jonathan Lucroy and Davis.

The Phillies scored a run in the sixth, but left the bases loaded. The Phillies bullpen then gave up three runs in the seventh to give the Brewers a four-run cushion.

That seventh inning emptied the ballpark, which had an announced crowd of 25,492, the smallest at the Bank since Sept. 11, 2007.

"I'm not concerned," said Lee, asked if he is concerned about the slow start. "We've just got to turn it around like, now. So we'll see what happens tomorrow." Comments