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Perhaps the pressure was too much.

“We’ve got a lot of talent on our team,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “We won the most games in baseball. That just goes to show you, especially in a long run, how we can do. But when you hit against teams that are playing better baseball than you and things like that and especially in the playoffs or series, then you get beat. And I kind of think that’s what’s happened to us in the last couple years. But at the same time, I think we’re every bit as good or better than the teams we’ve been playing overall if you look at it.”

A lineup that features seven regulars who’ve been All-Stars was downright awful against the Cardinals. Five players hit below .211. Howard and Placido Polanco each went 2 for 19. Hunter Pence was 4 for 19. Raul Ibanez was 3 for 15. Carlos Ruiz had one hit in 17 at-bats.

Only Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Shane Victorino did anything offensively. The overall hitting woes shouldn’t be a surprise, however.

Several players have been on the decline for the past few seasons. That’s why general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. put together the best starting rotation money could buy. But Lee and Oswalt let them down in big games.

It’ll be an interesting offseason in Philadelphia. There could be some big changes, and a couple of familiar faces may not be back in red pinstripes next season.

Rollins, Ibanez and closer Ryan Madson will be free agents.

Oswalt has a $16 million mutual option. Brad Lidge, the bullpen star in 2008, almost certainly will get a $1.5 million buyout instead of having his $12.5 million option picked up.

The Phillies have about $113 million committed to nine players, and Hamels and Pence are due raises in arbitration.

Whatever moves are made, the Phillies still should be a championship-caliber club. They’ll win plenty of regular-season games with Halladay, Lee and Hamels anchoring a rotation that probably will include Vance Worley, who had a standout rookie season.

But like the Braves of the 1990s learned, strong pitching doesn’t guarantee postseason success. The Phillies need to find a way to get their offense going next year.

“It’s very disappointing to be going home right now. It’s tough,” Ibanez said. “Obviously, we know we’re capable of doing more. But we didn’t. And they beat us. It’s a hard pill to swallow. We didn’t do enough, and they did. We didn’t do what we were supposed to do. And they did.”

That’s becoming a common theme around here.

NOTES: The team said Hamels will have loose bodies removed from his left elbow on Friday and another surgery a week later to repair a hernia. … Pence and Polanco will both have MRIs to evaluate their hernias. Polanco probably will have surgery and the scan will help determine what Pence needs. … 1B Ross Gload probably will have arthroscopic surgery on his right hip after it is re-examined by Dr. Bryan Kelly.