CHICAGO - It had little shot of ending well once the second inning reached its conclusion. Not because Roy Halladay imploded, but because he wasn't flat-out dominant. And when Halladay hasn't been dominant, the Phillies haven't won many games. Last night was no exception, as the Cubs scored four runs in the second inning en route to an 11-6 victory, and the Phils limped out of Chicago having lost three of four.
"You guys are stat guys - take a look. If you can't see where the problem is at . . . ," manager Charlie Manuel said, leaving the thought unfinished. "I don't have to sit here and say anything about anybody. You should be able to read the stats and read what happens and watch the game every night. I don't have to sit here and say anything negative about anybody. It speaks for itself. Nobody can take away your performance. No one can hide it, though, neither."
Sometimes, though, the numbers are even worse than they appear. For example, the record will show that the Phillies scored 19 runs in four games in which they went 1-3 against the Cubs. But 10 of those runs came in the ninth inning of games in which they were thoroughly stifled. On Saturday, four were gift-wrapped by Carlos Marmol and Geovany Soto in a ninth-inning meltdown of epic proportions. Seven more came against mop-up relievers at the tail end of blowout losses, including solo home runs by Greg Dobbs, Ryan Howard and Ben Francisco in the eighth and ninth innings last night.
The record also will show that Halladay, who fell to 10-8, allowed six runs in six innings before departing after a season-low 87 pitches.
But underneath it all, there is the fact that Halladay has entered an inning with a lead exactly three times in his last three starts, and that he has pitched with a deficit in a career-high 36 percent of his plate appearances through 20 starts.
Last night, two key defensive lapses helped push home an unearned run in the four-run second inning. First, Howard was unable to track down a catchable, two-out popup from Derrek Lee in foul territory, which extended the inning with runners on the corners. Then, with two strikes on Lee, Carlos Ruiz one-hopped a throw to second on a stolen-base attempt by Starlin Castro, allowing Tyler Colvin to score from third. One pitch later, Halladay struck out Lee to end the frame.
The Phillies cut the lead to 4-2 in the top of the fifth, but by the time they added a third run in the seventh run, the Cubs had added to their lead with a two-run home run by Alfonso Soriano in the sixth.
Halladay, who allowed three home runs in his first 13 starts, has allowed 10 in his last seven. Nevertheless, he said he feels fresh despite having thrown 154 innings - a career high through 20 starts.
"Physically, I feel good," said Halladay, who was charged with five earned runs on seven hits with no walks and three strikeouts in six innings. "I think you get a second wind later in the season, but I think, at this point, for me, it's the most important time to monitor my work in between and really keep that fresh feeling. I think this is the part where it can be a grind. I think you hit August, late September, you get that second wind. For me, it's always been that way."
That's part of the reason why the Phillies decided to use the All-Star break to give him two extra days of rest between starts. And it's also why Manuel plucked him from the game after the sixth with a 6-2 deficit.
"We didn't hit," Manuel said. "We didn't generate any offense until the game was over."
Despite Halladay's won-loss record, he leads the majors in innings while posting a 2.40 ERA.
When the Phillies traded for Halladay in December, they thought such numbers would equate to an automatic win every 5 or 6 days. Instead, the ace righthander has been the biggest victim of the injuries and ineffectiveness that have plagued the team's lineup.
Last night, the Phillies managed just three runs off Cubs lefthander Tom Gorzelanny, who, earlier in the season, shut them down for 6 2/3 scoreless innings at Citizens Bank Park.
Howard was one of the few bright spots of the series, finishing with four homers and eight RBI.
"When he starts swinging the bat good, that's really encouraging," Manuel said.
Now, everyone else has to join him.
Ben Francisco started in place of Raul Ibanez in leftfield for the fifth time in the Phillies' last six games against lefthanded starters, dating back to mid-June, but Charlie Manuel said the situation is not a platoon. Ibanez entered last night hitting .217 against lefties and .263 against righties. Said Manuel: "Every now and then I've got to get Ben in the game. If he's going to come off the bench and hit for us, he's got to get in the game every now and then." Francisco went 2-for-5, with a solo homer . . . Placido Polanco's single up the middle in the first inning extended his hitting streak to a team season-long 10 games . . . Jimmy Rollins snapped an 0-for-14 drought with a single.
For more Phillies coverage and opinion, read David Murphy's blog, High Cheese, at http://go.philly.com/highcheese.