LOS ANGELES - For eight innings, it looked as if the Phillies would extend their winning streak to eight games.
But with two out in the ninth, Andre Ethier's two-run single off Brad Lidge gave the Dodgers a 4-3 victory, ruining a brilliant outing by lefthander Jamie Moyer. An error by Pedro Feliz at third with two outs would have preserved a 3-2 win, but he bobbled a grounder that loaded the bases, giving Ethier and the Dodgers life.
The line between success and failure is often as thin as the chalk that runs from home plate to the foul poles, and for the past eight games, the Phillies have found themselves on the proper side of it recently.
At no point was that as true for most of last night, when the game came down to the types of plays that the contending teams often seem to make.
It started early, when second baseman Chase Utley retreated to shallow right field to catch a popup off the bat of Rafael Furcal, then fired a one-hopper to third base, where Feliz tagged out the speedy Juan Pierre. Instead of a man on third with one out, the bases were cleared with two out - run saved.
It continued in the third inning, when Jayson Werth went from first to third on a one-out single by Ryan Howard and later scored on a fielder's choice by Raul Ibanez - run earned.
Then, in the fourth inning, third-base coach Sam Perlozzo waved Chris Coste around on a two-out double by Chase Utley that had already scored Eric Bruntlett. Although Furcal's relay throw home arrived in plenty of time, Coste collided with Russell Martin, knocking the ball from the glove of the Dodgers' catcher as plate umpire Todd Tichenor called him safe - run earned.
Aside from a sinking fly ball that dropped in front of Bruntlett in rightfield and allowed a run in the seventh inning - a more experienced outfielder might have gotten a better jump - and a couple of wasted scoring opportunities in the second and fifth, the Phillies did all the little things right. The Dodgers, on the other hand, were hurt by an error on second baseman Orlando Hudson, who mishandled a grounder in the fourth that allowed Coste to reach base and set up Utley's two-run double.
But the biggest star of the night was a 46-year-old lefthander who used his devilish combination of slow and slower to stymie a Dodgers lineup that has given him fits. Moyer was brilliant for the second straight start, holding LA to two runs on four hits in seven innings.
It was vintage Moyer, who relied on pinpoint control and stout defense to record the victory and shake any lasting memory of the shaky performance that plagued him in the first month and a half of the season. After allowing a leadoff single to Pierre to start the game, he retired 11 of the next 12 batters, holding the Dodgers without another hit until Matt Kemp singled to lead off the sixth.
During that stretch, LA's only other baserunner came in the fourth inning, when Moyer grazed Pierre's elbow with a pitch, a miscue that eventually ledone of the two runs he allowed.
He allowed just three runners to reach second, and did not walk a batter. The performance came on the heels of a one-run, three-hit outing against the Nationals. In his last four starts, Moyer has allowed just 10 runs in 25 innings, lowering his ERA from 8.15 to 6.27.
Lefthander J.C. Romero, who pitched a scoreless eighth, and Lidge, who blew his fifth save, failed to sew up the win.
The Phillies continue to ride the throwing arms of their rejuvenated rotation, which has posted a 3.62 ERA in its last 17 starts and has allowed just two earned runs in its last three. Moyer would have been the eighth straight starter to record a victory, but the Phillies fell to 32-21. *