WASHINGTON (AP) — Shortly after the Philadelphia Phillies' streak of nine consecutive winning seasons came to a close, they started finding scapegoats.
Philadelphia lost 5-1 to the NL East champion Washington Nationals on Wednesday to finish 81-81 and in third place, following five division titles in a row.
Didn't take long for the fallout to begin: The Phillies fired first base coach Sam Perlozzo, bench coach Pete Mackanin and hitting coach Greg Gross.
And expect more moves.
"We're definitely going to have some changes on our roster," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "How many or what, I don't really know."
Perlozzo, former manager of the Baltimore Orioles, joined the Phillies as their third base coach for the 2009 season. He moved to first base in 2011. Gross was Philadelphia's bench coach in 2001, then hitting coach from 2002-04 and from July 2010 until Wednesday. Mackanin arrived in Philadelphia in 2009.
"We dug ourself in a pretty hole pretty early, and ... it was almost too much to overcome. Next year, we've got to come in and start off better," said left-hander Cliff Lee (6-9), who allowed three runs and eight hits in six innings Wednesday and finished with a losing record for the first time since 2007.
"Injuries hurt us pretty bad this year, but the other teams in this division have gotten better. So nothing is going to come easy," Lee added. "But if we're healthy and guys are out there playing the we can, then we can beat anyone."
Wasn't all that long ago — in 2008 and 2009, actually — that the Nationals were losing 100 games a season and finishing with the worst record in the majors. But their victory Wednesday gave them a majors-high 98th victory and home-field advantage throughout the postseason.
"It's quite an accomplishment," third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. "Obviously winning the division was a goal and now we've done that and we have a chance to go do some stuff in the playoffs. This is a great season, a great team, a good group of guys, and we accomplished a lot that we should be proud of."
He continued: "But we have a lot more to accomplish, hopefully."
Fitted for hats with postseason patches before the game, the Nationals will open the playoffs on the road Sunday at the winner of Friday's wild-card game between Atlanta and St. Louis. Game 2 will also be at the wild-card winner's stadium, before the best-of-five series shifts to Washington. A team from the nation's capital hasn't participated in Major League Baseball action beyond the regular season since the Senators lost the 1933 World Series.