CINCINNATI - Roy Halladay stood in front of his locker and said he isn't going to change who he is. But, by that point, he had already proved as much, climbing back onto the rubber of a still-reverberating Great American Ballpark earlier in the afternoon and slamming the ball into his mitt. Eager to erase the memory of his previous pitch, a cutter that Jay Bruce had blasted for a two-run homer to rightfield, the Phillies' ace glared impatiently toward home plate and barked something in the direction of the batter's box. When play finally resumed, he went about striking out Drew Stubbs on three pitches.

The recovery was vintage Halladay in all but one important respect: The mistake that preceded the strikeout had occurred in the eighth inning, leaving the Phillies with a sudden 4-3 deficit and little time to recover.

"It cost us the game," Halladay said after surrendering that go-ahead home run in the bottom of the eighth and then watching Francisco Cordero close out the Reds' 4-3 win in the ninth. "Other games you have a chance to come back. At that point in the game, late in the game, it's pretty costly."

There were a couple of other moments - soccer fans might call them 50-50 balls - when the Phillies could have seized control of a series-deciding game or prevented the Reds from clawing their way back in. Fresh off a dramatic, 10-inning victory Tuesday night, they put their first two batters of the game on base but failed to advance them any further as Jimmy Rollins and Jayson Werth struck out and Ryan Howard grounded out. The Phils, now 41-35, relegated their scoring to the fourth inning, when backup-to-the-backup catcher Dane Sardinha hit a three-run homer against the team that drafted him in the supplemental round in 2000.

In the seventh, Werth was unable to track down a long fly ball off the bat of Brandon Phillips near the wall in rightfield; it was ruled a double and led to a run.

"Try it again, maybe I catch it," he said later. "I thought I did all I could."

But even with the missed opportunities, it was a game the Phillies plan on winning when Halladay is on the mound. In his first 16 starts with the team, he dominated the later innings of games, allowing just five earned runs in 26 1/3 innings after the sixth. In those frames, he struck out 22 of the 106 batters he faced, allowing two home runs and two walks.

So when he entered the seventh inning with a 3-1 lead yesterday - the score was 3-0 until Joey Votto hit his 18th home run of the season to leadoff the sixth - it appeared as if the Phillies were on their way to taking two out of three from the surprising, first-place Reds.

But Phillips' double was one of three hits the Reds produced in the seventh as they cut the lead to 3-2. Halladay got the last two outs of that frame with the tying run on third base, setting the stage for more late-game heroics by the home team.

On Tuesday, it was Votto hitting a game-tying three-run homer off Brad Lidge to force extra innings in a game the Phillies would eventually win, 9-6. Yesterday, it was Jonny Gomes leading off the eighth with a single, then watching as Bruce crushed a first-pitch cutter into the rightfield seats for his 10th homer.

Halladay allowed a career-high 13 hits - four for extra bases - and fell to 9-7 with a 2.42 ERA.

"I'm not worried about the hits," said Halladay, who has lost more than seven games in an entire season only three times in his 13-year career. "I'm worried about the one that cost me. It was three runs on three hits, really. I'm not worried about the other ones. I left two balls up and it cost me."

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