Phillies fall to Cubs, 12-6

Posted: July 15, 2010

CHICAGO - The conundrum the Phillies face as the clock tick-tick-ticks toward the trade deadline unfolded right before their eyes Thursday night in a 12-6 loss to the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.

On one hand, they were entirely justified to feel pretty good about their starting pitching as they opened the second half. The starting rotation had a 3.95 ERA and opponents were hitting .259 against them at the all-star break.

A quick look at those same numbers from the previous three seasons - 4.99 ERA and .277 average in 2007, 4.48 and .269 in 2008, and 4.98 and .283 in 2009 - when the Phillies won the National League East, reveals that this year's rotation is the best of the bunch at the break.

On the other hand, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. and manager Charlie Manuel must decide if better is good enough in a season when the bats are not quite as productive and the Atlanta Braves appear to be considerably better.

Ryan Howard did his part against Chicago, smacking two home runs.

Maybe 47-year-old lefthander Jamie Moyer helped some with that decision during the loss that allowed Atlanta, which beat Milwaukee Thursday, to push its division lead over the Phils to 51/2 games.

As well as Moyer has pitched during most of the first half, it's impossible not to think about his age when he delivers a performance like the one he had against the first major-league team he first pitched for in 1986.

The Phillies' second half got off to a nice start in the top of the first inning when Howard followed Raul Ibanez's two-out single by blasting a two-run home run off the Cubs' Ryan Dempster that landed beyond the wall in right-center on Sheffield Avenue.

Moyer, in his second straight shaky outing, could not make that lead last through the bottom of the first.

The veteran lefty hit two batters - Tyler Colvin and Marlon Byrd - in the bottom of the inning before surrendering a two-run double to Aramis Ramirez, who hit just .207 with 32 RBIs through the all-star break.

By the end of the second, the Cubs had a 3-2 lead, thanks to a steal of home by rookie shortstop Starlin Castro, who had tripled over centerfielder Shane Victorino's head with one out. It was a pitch in the dirt by Moyer that allowed the steal to succeed.

Moyer appeared to throw the ball away from Dempster, who had squared for a squeeze bunt. Dempster could not get his bat on the ball, but the pitch bounced away from catcher Carlos Ruiz and Castro slid safely into home.

By the end of the third, the Cubs had a 6-2 lead, thanks to home runs by Derrek Lee and Alfonso Soriano, and Moyer's evening was over.

The two oldest parks in the big leagues were not kind to the oldest man in the big leagues. Moyer's combined ERA was 33.80 in losses at Fenway Park and Wrigley Field.

The second-oldest pitcher on the Phillies' staff didn't have a good night either. Reliever Jose Contreras, 38, made sure a Phillies comeback would not be possible by allowing five runs on five hits while recording just two outs in the seventh inning.

Of most concern for Amaro and Manuel is that Moyer has allowed 13 earned runs on 12 hits in 81/3 innings for a 14.05 ERA in his last two starts. His record now stands at 9-9 and his ERA is 4.88.

You have to think those numbers forced Amaro to hit the speed dial of some other big-league GMs in the hope of fueling some trade talk to improve the rotation.

For much of this season, Moyer has been as trustworthy as one of those old cars with hundreds of thousands of miles on them.

Right now, however, the brakes are squeaking, the oil is leaking, and the Phillies must decide if they want to trade in Moyer's left arm for a newer model.

Contact staff writer Bob Brookover at 215-854-2577 or