When the sun burns through the smog, the Phillies will remain five games behind the Mets and 3 1/2 games behind the Braves, snugly in third place in the National League East, thanks to New York and Atlanta both losing. By nightfall, they will be faced with another daunting challenge, with inconsistent rookie J.D. Durbin slated to start on Tuesday.
"These games are big, man," manager Charlie Manuel said. "We don't want to get way behind and any time we lose, that's what happens. We need for Durbin to give us a good outing."
Before the game, Manuel waxed about Moyer's usage early in the season, and said he leaned heavily on the starters to avoid exposing a suspect bullpen. Moyer averaged 6 2/3 innings and 102 pitches per start in compiling a 4-2 record and a 3.48 ERA in his first eight outings -- a relatively average workload by most standards. Still, Manuel worried that Moyer's efforts might catch up to him.
"When we had him up over 100 pitches so many times early in the year, that was too much," Manuel said. "There comes a time when you pay a price for that. Right there before the [All-Star] break, I think you started to see that."
The Phillies set their post All-Star break rotation to start Moyer in the fourth game, giving him nine days between outings. The extra rest didn't help the 44-year-old, who coughed up 10 or more earned runs for the third time in his career, and had his worst night since surrendering 11 runs in 3 2/3 innings, against the White Sox on Aug. 9, 2000.
"I know what I did," Moyer said. "I know what they did. I made some good pitches, and they hit them. They're supposed to hit bad pitches. I made some bad pitches and they hit those, too."
Philadelphia staked Moyer to a 1-0 lead against All-Star Brad Penny (10-1), but the lefty gave it back and then some in allowing a three-run first inning. The Dodgers plated three more runs on a homer by Jeff Kent in the third, and Matt Kemp dealt the final blow with a three-run homer in the sixth as part of a four-run evening.
"Kemp's home run was big, of course," Manuel said. "That was the one that did him in."
Manuel's lack of roster flexibility didn't help matters in the fourth inning, when the Phillies loaded the bases with two outs. With catcher Rod Barajas away from the team to assist his wife in labor, the manager didn't want to send Chris Coste up to pinch-hit, as it would've have cost him his backup catcher.
Manuel also didn't want to go to his bullpen so early, because he figured they'll be needed on Tuesday. Moyer hit for himself trailing, 6-1, and struck out. Penny glided from there.
His pregame ERA of 2.39 suggested that chances to score might be slim. His ERA of 2.33 after seven one-run innings states that the Phillies did very little. Penny allowed four hits and three walks in handing the Phillies their second straight loss and the 10,001st in franchise history.
Moyer's ERA rose to 4.99 for the season. He's thrown especially poor in three July starts, posting a 10.06 ERA, but he downplayed the notion that he's fatigued.
In acknowledging that this is another game that has to be shaken off during a long season, Moyer stopped and said something that may be more telling, considering how the team's fortunes have gone:
"One game doesn't make a season," he said. "If you say that enough, it does."