NEW YORK - The Phillies' hitters have stolen the headlines for more than a month, and it's a burglary that they are not particularly proud to have their fingerprints on.
Most of the evidence revealed that the bats were guilty of wilting without pause during an 8-17 stretch that had not-so-magically turned the Phillies into a third-place team.
The Phillies' pitchers, for the most part, had been exonerated from any serious wrongdoing during the team's extended stretch of hideous baseball. As recently as a week ago, manager Charlie Manuel said he was pleasantly surprised by the work of his pitching staff.
Right on cue, the pitchers started to earn their share of the blame for the Phillies' free fall. In the eight games after Manuel complimented his pitching staff, the five starters allowed 61 hits and 38 earned runs in 44 innings for a 7.77 ERA.
The worst of the eight performances was turned in by Jamie Moyer, who allowed nine runs on nine hits in just one-plus inning of work at Boston. If there can be a curse to still pitching in the major leagues at 47 years old, it is that everyone is sure to remember you are 47 years old after a start like that one.
So there was only one way for Moyer to remind his many skeptics that 47, like the 50 on the back of the veteran lefthander's jersey, is just a number.
And that's just what Moyer did by following up his clunker at Fenway Park with a work of art against the World Series champions Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium. One night after the Yankees roughed up staff ace Roy Halladay, Moyer allowed just three hits and two runs - both on solo homers - in eight innings and the Phillies held on for a 6-3 victory.
"I know I'm amazed with him," Manuel said. "His work routine is absolutely amazing and he's always ready to pitch. I don't mind giving Jamie Moyer the ball because he's going to give you everything he's got."
Moyer said he quickly erased the memory of the beating he absorbed in Boston.
"When I was younger, I probably did dwell on things like that," Moyer said. "But I've learned through experience that we're all human beings and we're going to have good days and bad days."
Perhaps Moyer's most important innings of work were the second and third. The veteran lefty allowed a solo home run to Robinson Cano that sailed deep into the right-field seats in the second, but he quickly recovered and caught Jorge Posada and Curtis Granderson looking at called third strikes to end the inning. That was huge because the Phillies' struggling offense had put up four runs in the top of the second, with three of them coming on a bases-loaded triple by Shane Victorino.
Any time a pitcher can shut down an opponent immediately after his teammates score a flurry of runs, it is greatly appreciated.
"That's the key," catcher Brian Schneider said. "When you score, you have to go out and shut the other team down. The momentum is on our side and you have to keep that going."
Moyer was even better in the third after Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth connected for back-to-back home runs, building the Phillies' lead to five runs. Moyer responded by retiring the Yankees in order, something he did four other times during the evening.
Posada hit a solo home run in the fifth with one out, but again Moyer limited the damage by getting the next two hitters. He only allowed two other base runners the remainder of the evening and he ended the seventh by getting Cano, the American League's leading hitter, to ground into a 5-4-3 double play.
This was the Moyer the Phillies have seen more often than not this season. It was the 11th time in 13 outings that he has pitched at least six innings and the fourth time in his last eight starts that he has gone at least seven innings.
Take away the Boston massacre and Moyer's ERA for the season is 3.81.
It would take too much research to figure out exactly where Moyer's 265th career victory ranked among his many accomplishments, but it was definitely his best performance at this Yankee Stadium because it was the first time he had ever pitched in the House That Steinbrenner Built. It was the 49th big-league stadium where Moyer has worked.
On this night, everybody marveled at Moyer's performance against the defending champions. Five days earlier, a lot of people wondered if, at 47, he was just too old to pitch against one of baseball's better teams.
"I pretty much have heard that my whole career, so it goes in one ear and out the other," Moyer said. "I was told in 1991 that I should retire. I've said for years that sooner or later somebody is going to be right."
Until that day, Moyer will continue to prove a lot of people wrong.