MIAMI -- Roy Halladay entered Wednesday on quite a roll.
He had retired 55 of 62 batters since the third inning on July 29 in Atlanta. He had allowed just one earned run in 15 innings in his last two starts.
He looked like an ace again.
He looked like Doc.
But Halladay wasn't perfect in Wednesday's 9-2 loss to Miami at Marlins Park, although the bullpen fared worse, turning a one-run game into a blowout loss. Halladay allowed six hits, three runs, one walk, one home run and struck out seven in seven innings. Marlins third baseman Greg Dobbs made Halladay's afternoon miserable, going 3-for-3 with a home run and two RBIs against the Phils' starter to account for most of the early Marlins offense, which had a franchise-record 30-inning scoreless streak snapped in the fourth inning.
The Phillies' bullpen had a 2.48 ERA in 25 appearances since July 14 -- it was the fifth-best mark in baseball in that span -- but B.J. Rosenberg, Raul Valdes and Michael Schwimer allowed six runs in the eighth inning to kill any hopes of a ninth-inning comeback.
"[I wanted to] see how they handle it, see how they do," said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel when asked about his willingness to try some of his young pitchers in close games. "We've got 45 games left. We should get a real good read on the guys that are playing right now and our pitchers. That's a part of playing them and getting them big league experience.
"They'll be in big league games, getting big league experience. And plus we're getting a look at them."
Halladay retired nine of the first 12 batters he faced before he ran into trouble in the fourth. He walked Carlos Lee to open the inning after starting the at-bat 0-2. Giancarlo Stanton doubled to put runners on second and third. Dobbs singled to score Lee to hand the Marlins a 1-0 lead, and Stanton scored on Donovan Solano's sacrifice fly to make it 2-0.
The Phillies chipped away at Marlins left-hander Mark Buehrle. Ty Wigginton, who started at first base to give Ryan Howard his first day off since Aug. 2, ripped a solo home run to left field in the fifth inning to make it 2-1. The Phillies scored a run in the sixth inning to tie the game when Kevin Frandsen reached on a two-out bunt single, Chase Utley walked and Wigginton singled to left field to score Frandsen.
Dobbs hit a solo home run to right field on a first-pitch changeup in the bottom of the frame to make it 3-2.
"You know, it was just kind of in his bat speed," Halladay said. "I really just left it up a little bit. It was kind of the one I want back. That was kind of the big one."
Still, the Marlins came away impressed. They had not seen Halladay, who spent seven weeks this season on the disabled list with a strained right back muscle, since April 11.
"It's the best I've seen him throw in a little while," Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said. "He threw the ball pretty good today. He seemed kind of off, because most of the time we weren't chasing his breaking ball, and his breaking ball wasn't as sharp. That's the only difference, but he threw the ball good."
If only the Phillies had tacked on another run or two against Buehrle, or Halladay had done a better job against Dobbs. Then Halladay might have started the eighth inning or the Phillies might have used their bullpen differently.
Despite the loss, there were reasons to be encouraged. Halladay is 2-2 in his last four starts, but he also carries a 2.25 ERA. In 28 innings, he has allowed 17 hits, seven runs and three walks. He has struck out 27.
"Obviously, I felt today I wasn't as sharp as my last start," Halladay said. "But I felt like I was still able to make good pitches and give us a chance and get deep in the game. I feel like earlier on [this season], if I wasn't really spotting it, I was in trouble. I feel like now I have more room for error. I feel like days when I'm not exactly where I want, I've got a chance to get us deep and give us a chance [to win]. That's a big difference.
"The good years, at least half of your starts are that way. You are probably going to have six or seven where you are really on, and then the majority where you kind of grind your way through, and then you are going to have six or seven where you are really bad. I think being able to get to that point and still get guys out is a step in the right direction. I feel like I, for the most part, could make pitches when I needed to."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.