PHILADELPHIA -- The end is near, so Phillies fans focused their attention elsewhere Wednesday at Citizens Bank Park.
They focused on Jayson Werth.
He got fans fired up in the ninth inning in an 8-4 loss to the Nationals, which cut Philadelphia's elimination number to two. A combination of two Phillies losses or Cardinals victories will keep the Phillies from the postseason for the first time since 2006.
The Phillies' run of five consecutive postseason appearances is the longest active streak in baseball, and tied with the A's (1971-75) and Indians (1995-99) for the third-longest streak since MLB began divisional play in 1969. Only the Atlanta Braves (14 seasons from 1991-2005) and New York Yankees (13 seasons from 1995-2007) have had better runs.
It isn't easy to win, which Phillies fans certainly are aware.
"We know where we're at right now in the standings," Phillies right-hander Kyle Kendrick said.
But Werth, who helped the Phillies win the 2008 World Series, got the crowed excited. While in the on-deck circle during the ninth inning, Werth retrieved a foul ball and pretended to throw it into the stands before tossing it into the Nationals' dugout. Fans noticed and booed Werth before he stepped to the plate.
Those boos grew from there with fans standing during his entire at-bat against Phillies right-hander Justin De Fratus.
"I thought that they wanted to get on him," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.
But Werth got the last laugh when he hit a 2-2 fastball up the middle to score two runs. He reveled in the hit, giving an enthusiastic clap as he stood near first base.
"It was the first time I heard it get that loud while I was playing," De Fratus said. "They were kind of on him yesterday, too."
Werth explained the chain of events.
"Earlier in the game I flipped the ball in the seats in right field to a fan and it bounced off her hands and landed in someone else's lap," Werth said. "And a Phillies fan reached over, grabbed the ball in her lap and grabbed the ball and threw it back on the field.
"So in the ninth, when I got the ball, I was gonna flip the ball to a group of kids, and then behind the kids were all these unruly middle-aged men that, to me, appeared to be snarling. It's the ninth, who knows -- I kind of got the sense that they were intoxicated, but maybe not. I was gonna flip it to the kids, but then I thought maybe I shouldn't because of the people right behind those innocent little children. So I just flipped it in the dugout, and evidently that rubbed some people the wrong way."
It was just a brief -- albeit entertaining -- sideshow in a loss that dropped the Phillies to 78-77, with their only realistic goal at this point being to finish the season with a winning record.
The Phillies lost Wednesday because they could not overcome one of the worst starts of Kendrick's career. He allowed five hits, five runs, two walks, three home runs and struck out one in just two-plus innings. He allowed a two-run home run to Bryce Harper in the first inning to make it 2-0, a solo homer to Ian Desmond in the second to make it 3-0 and a two-run homer to Kurt Suzuki to make it 5-0.
It was the third-shortest start of Kendrick's career, not including a rain-shortened start in 2008.
"He had kind of a rough go," Manuel said.
Kendrick has pitched well since mid-August. He is 6-3 with a 2.73 ERA (17 earned runs in 56 innings) in his last nine starts, although he is 1-2 with a 6.59 ERA (10 earned runs in 13 2/3 innings) in his last three.
He is slated to be in the Phillies' rotation next season, but he would love to improve his consistency. He has allowed two earned runs or fewer in 16 starts this season, going 8-4 with a 1.85 ERA in those starts. In his other eight starts he is 0-7 with a 10.40 ERA.
"We're all trying to be consistent," Kendrick said. "I don't think it's just myself. If I was awesome every start I'd be Cy Young. There is a lot of failure in this game. I'd love every time to be eight innings, no runs. That's what I'm working, striving for."
The Phillies could not overcome their early 5-0 deficit. They had the bases loaded with one out in the third after scoring a run, but could not bring anybody home. Jimmy Rollins homered in the seventh to make it a 5-3 game. They scored another run in the eighth to make it a one-run game.
The Phillies have lost three of their last four games.
"I don't know if I'd call it running out of steam," Manuel said. "It's just how consistent we have to be. We've been really pushing just to get to .500. We've been pushing real hard and it's kind of catching up with us."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.