Howard homers twice, but pitching falters
Moyer, Contreras combine to allow 11 runs in loss to Cubs
CHICAGO -- Starting pitcher Jamie Moyer was roughed up early, and the Phillies were unable to recover in a 12-6 loss to the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on Thursday.
The Phillies appeared to have momentum early as Ryan Howard crushed the first pitch he saw in the top of the first onto Sheffield Avenue for a two-run home run.
"After [Howard] hit it, I came in the dugout and said, 'Welcome back, I missed all you guys,'" Cubs starting pitcher Ryan Dempster said. "Those are going to happen, especially with a guy like that, when you leave a ball over the plate and back over the middle. He doesn't miss too many of those, and he hits them a long way. I knew it was early, and we came right back after that."
If Moyer could have strung together some zeroes, it looked like the kind of game where the team would put up one more crooked number on the scoreboard and go back to the hotel with a win. Especially against the beleaguered Cubs, who entered the All-Star break having lost three of their last four.
It wasn't to be, however, as Moyer immediately gave up two runs in the bottom of the first.
"That first home run did get us going," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "We walked out there, and they took the momentum back away from us. That's kind of how the game went. It did get us going, but they put six runs on the board after that."
Moyer's main problem in the frame was hitting Marlon Byrd and Tyler Colvin, who both eventually came around to score.
"Marlon Byrd, I was just trying to throw a ball down and in, and I pulled it and it hit him in the thigh," Moyer said. "He walks to first base and laughs."
For a pitcher with Moyer's velocity, it is understood that some balls will be hit hard. The key for Moyer is to ensure that no one else is on base when that happens.
So when Aramis Ramirez smoked a ball down the third-base line, both Byrd and Colvin scored easily to tie the ballgame, as momentum shifted quickly back into the Cubs' favor.
"To me, the ultimate thing is, go out there and back it up with a zero, and I wasn't able to do that," Moyer said.
Then, the Cubs kept scoring. Over the second and third innings, the Cubs touched up Moyer for two homers and four runs.
"I don't know if it was necessarily the first," Moyer said of his struggles. "It was the first, second and third. Tonight, it was all about execution. I don't feel like I executed the way I can, and I feel like it's up to me to do something about it."
Moyer gave up five hits and six earned runs over three innings.
"I felt like if I made good pitches down I would be fine," Moyer said. "But I made bad pitches down and bad pitches up. I paid for it."
The especially painful part for Manuel is the fact that he had to use five of his six relievers, along with another starter in Kyle Kendrick.
"It was just one of those nights," Manuel said. "They hit a couple home runs off us at the end to really put the game away. They got a big lead on us."
Moyer's counterpart, Dempster, pitched well, striking out nine in 6 2/3 innings and giving up just the two first-inning runs.
For all the early-inning commotion, the most disappointing part for the Phillies was the bullpen's inability to contain the Cubs. The game was within reach until Jose Contreras gave up five earned runs in the bottom of the seventh inning.
That made a ninth-inning rally obsolete, as the Phillies scored four runs with two outs, including Howard's second home run of the game to right field.
"We need consistent pitching," Manuel said. "We've got holes."
With the Trade Deadline looming, the Phillies hope that some of those holes can be filled, be it with more offense from the return of injured position players, or with the acquisition of outside talent.
"Good enough?" Manuel said of his pitchers. "I don't know. You never know. They've got to pitch consistently.
"Look at it like this: we've got to play pretty good baseball. We've got to play in the high-.500s or .600. And that means our pitching needs to be very consistent. That's what it means."
Louie Horvath is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.