PHILADELPHIA -- Manager Charlie Manuel saw it as a missed opportunity. "When we were [tied] 1-1 [entering] the seventh at home, I still thought we should've won the game," the Phillies skipper said. "That's how I look at it." Instead, the Phils' struggling bullpen turned that chance into a hole too deep, spotting the Dodgers four runs to turn a tie score into a 5-2 loss to Los Angeles at Citizens Bank Park.
In defeat, the Phillies dropped two of three games to one of the National League Wild Card contenders. A bullpen thought to have been shored up with the return of Tom Gordon and Brett Myers sprang a major leak, surrendering runs for the fifth time in six games, beginning with the first game of the Pittsburgh series. The relief corps have combined to allow 25 runs in 17 2/3 innings, for a 12.73 ERA. Gordon bore the brunt of Thursday afternoon's damage, when he didn't retire any of the four batters he faced, and all four scored. With the Phillies trailing, 2-1, Gordon began the eighth by walking Matt Kemp, who stole second. Kemp slid past second and might have been tagged out, but second baseman Tadahito Iguchi didn't trail the runner with his glove. Kemp scored on Jeff Kent's single, then Gordon allowed another single to James Loney and walked Russell Martin, ending Gordon's afternoon. Geoff Geary came into a bases-loaded, no-out situation and got Luis Gonzalez to rap into a pitcher-to-catcher-to-first double play, but allowed a two-run single to Ramon Martinez. "This isn't the way I wanted it to go at all," Gordon said. "I'm not pleased with that at all. It was at a time when our team was playing so well. [Starter] Fabio [Castro] went out there and pitched great for us. I hated to put our team in that situation. I hated to put Geary in that situation. "I want to be helping this team win ballgames. I'm very disappointed how things went." The Dodgers took the lead off J.C. Romero (0-2), who has allowed runs in two of his previous three outings, after doing that in two of his previous 23. Martinez singled, moved to second on a sacrifice and went to third on a groundout. Romero threw an inside pitch to Juan Pierre, who floated it into center field. "I thought about a grenade right away," Romero said. "I'm an aggressive guy. I pound lefties in. I'm pretty sure the league knows that. He fisted it and got a base hit. I would [throw the same pitch] again." In his first career Major League start, Castro survived a six-walk outing to hold the Dodgers -- a team that entered the game hitting .285 vs. lefties -- to a run in five innings. The lefty was returned to Triple-A Ottawa after the game. Of the walks Castro allowed, the one to pitcher Chad Billingsley leading off the fifth inning hurt the most because Billingsley came around to score on Rafael Furcal's double, one of the two hits surrendered by Castro. Iguchi's relay throw from Jayson Werth appeared to have a shot at getting Billingsley, but Ryan Howard cut the ball off and tried to nail Furcal at third. Everyone was safe. "All the walks didn't bother me, except the one to the pitcher at the beginning of that inning," Castro said. The team's overall defense bothered Manuel. "We were lucky they didn't score [more] runs earlier," he said. The Phils entered a crucial 10-game homestand against two Wild-Card contenders and the NL East-leading Mets, dropped two of three to the Dodgers. Since completing a sweep of the Pirates at home on July 29, the Phillies are 11-11, unable to gain ground on their opponents. Chase Utley is missed, as evidenced by the struggles of Howard, Pat Burrell and Aaron Rowand. The bullpen's struggles are just another aspect. "It's part of the game," Romero said. "The bullpen has always been a question mark since the day I got here, and before I got here. We're trying to stick together and do our job. We win some and lose some. We have to get this one out of our system." Bullpen lapses aside, the Phillies' offense made for an easy afternoon for right-hander Chad Billingsley, who lasted seven innings. "He made us swing the bats," said Rowand, who disagreed the notion that the Phillies missed a chance because they were home. "It wouldn't matter if we were in Los Angeles, San Diego or Timbuktu, he pitched great."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.