As a result, the Phils' magic number remains at three.
Houston defeated Philadelphia for the fifth consecutive time this season, 8-2, before a sellout crowd of 45,146 Monday night at Citizens Bank Park. Since the red-hot Braves defeated the Marlins, the Phillies were unable to move closer to their third straight National League East title. The Braves also pulled within four games of the Phillies in the division.
"Yeah, I'm concerned about it," Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel said. "We're not playing good right now. We're not hitting the ball."
Phillies starter Cole Hamels (10-10) gave up nine hits and six earned runs in 6 2/3 innings and took the loss while seeing his ERA increase to 4.25.
"Going out there, I thought I was executing the right type of plan," Hamels said. "Unfortunately, it didn't work."
Meanwhile, the Phillies couldn't break through against Houston right-hander Yorman Bazardo, who hadn't won a game since Sept. 25, 2007, when he pitched seven shutout innings for the Tigers in a win over the Twins. Bazardo spent Spring Training with the Phillies before being released on March 29.
Chase Utley gave the Phillies a 1-0 lead in the first inning against Bazardo with his 92nd RBI, a sacrifice fly to center field, scoring Jimmy Rollins.
Houston tied the game in the fourth, but the Phillies were quite fortunate. Jeff Keppinger singled to left, which appeared to score Miguel Tejada and Lance Berkman. However, Berkman never touched home plate and Paul Bako tagged him out near the Phillies' on-deck circle. Kazuo Matsui then struck out to end the threat.
Hamels allowed an RBI double to Hunter Pence and an RBI groundout to Keppinger in the sixth as the Phillies fell behind, 3-1.
A balk by Bazardo allowed Shane Victorino to score with two outs in the sixth to close within 3-2.
But Tejada (4-for-5) got to Hamels again in the seventh with a line single to right, scoring Michael Bourn for a 4-2 advantage. The Astros tacked on four more runs against Tyler Walker and Clay Condrey to extend their winning streak against the Phillies.
The Phils' five-game win streak at home came to an end, and it was their first home loss since Sept. 12 against the Mets.
"We have to win three games now," said Phillies reliever J.C. Romero, who was activated before the game and pitched for the first time since July 19. "We have to go get it done."
They haven't been able to get it done against the pesky Astros in 2009. They were swept in a four-game series Sept. 4-7 at Minute Maid Park before dropping Monday's game.
"For some reason, we get up against the real good clubs," Astros interim manager Dave Clark said. "I wish we could do it all the time. Here toward the end we're going to continue to battle, no matter who we're playing."
That's what the Phillies have been able to accomplish the past two years. In 2007, they rallied from seven games back with 17 remaining to overtake the Mets for the division title. Last year, they overcame a three-and-a-half game deficit with 17 to play.
With the Braves creeping closer every day, could that elevate the Phillies to another level?
"Anytime something pushes us and we rise to the occasion, it can be good," Manuel said. "We're getting close to that time."
The skipper's confidence still remains as strong as ever.
"I've got a lot of faith in our guys," Manuel said. "I'm betting on them."
Andy Jasner is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less