Dodgers skid continues despite strong start

While Stephen Fife outdueled Roy Halladay in his first ever start, the Dodgers 'pen betrayed the rookie.

LOS ANGELES -- It was supposed to be the night that made the struggling Philadelphia Phillies whole again -- Roy Halladay returning from the disabled list to take on the slumping Los Angeles Dodgers.

After getting injured second baseman Chase Utley and first baseman Ryan Howard back from the DL in the past 12 days, one of the final puzzle pieces that would put the team's turnaround in motion was to be the Tuesday night return of Roy Halladay.  And while Halladay didn't get the win, he may have put the Phillies back on the winning track -- with a little help from the Dodger relievers.  The Phillies made it two in a row over Los Angeles.

The 35-year old Halladay hadn't pitched in the majors since injuring his right lat in a game against the Cardinals in St. Louis on May 27, and he certainly was missed. The Phils went 15-27 after the righthander went on the DL, the second-worst record in major league baseball.  (Only the hapless Houston Astros have been worse at 12-31.) The two-time Cy Young Award winner would be facing 25-year-old Stephen Fife, who was making his first major league start, so things looked promising for Doc and his mates.

However, while Halladay did his best to kick-start the team back into a playoff chase, giving up just two earned runs in five innings and striking out six, it looked like the Phillies' stagnant offense would let him down. The rookie Fife went six innings, giving up one earned run, four hits and generally stifling the five-time defending Eastern Division Champs. But the Dodger bullpen once again blew up, ruining Fife's major league debut.  Ronald Bellisario hit two batters and left with the bases loaded ahead of Hunter Pence's two-run single in the top of the eighth to put Philadelphia ahead for good. It was Philly's first eighth-inning-or-later comeback win this season after going 0-38. Kyle Kendrick (3-8) picked up the win, while the loss went to Bellisario (3-1). Jonathan Papelbon collected his 21st save.

Halladay said he was happy to be back on the mound, but was hoping to do better after seven weeks on the sidelines.

"It was good overall," Halladay said," but (my) consistency and some mechanical things need to get better. I felt like things had improved from the rehab start. (But) I want to go deeper (into games) and get the pitch count up. I definitely want to go more than five innings.

"As far as pitch execution, that felt good. It really hasn't been an issue since I started throwing again. It's just a matter of repeating mechanics, and I feel like that's coming along pretty well."

He admitted that it was tough to be out for such a long period of time, especially when the team floundered in his absence. He knows, though, that it's not just up to him to get the Phillies' season turned around for a shot at a playoff berth.

"One guy is not going to do it," Halladay said.  "We all need to chip in where we can, and I think it's important for all of us to look at it that way. We have to realize that we're not going to do it (individually), not going to be able to do it alone. We need everybody.

"We've been playing better, which is a positive for us, and we want to keep that going as long as we can."

For Philadelphia, it was the fourth win in a row and seventh straight at Dodger Stadium. They raised their record to 41-51 and remain 13 games behind the East-leading Washington Nationals. Pence said that getting some of their best players back has had an impact on and off the field.

"You can't deny that it's good for us to be getting the guys back," Pence said. "It makes us that much more difficult for teams to deal with us. There are more intangibles with those guys than just having them back in the lineup."

Manager Charlie Manuel felt Halladay did well, but will definitely get better as he throws more innings.

"I think Doc did well, considering he's only pitched twice in seven-and-a-half weeks," he said. "He threw 60 pitches in Clearwater and 80 tonight, so I think he did OK. I think he'll also tell you that some of his pitches can be sharper, and they will be as the season moves on."

NOTES -- The Dodgers have now lost four in a row; 15 of their last 21 and are 3 games behind the Giants in the National League West...Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard, who's been the subject of numerous trade rumors that have him going to the Lakers, was in attendance. He's been in the L.A. area rehabbing his back after surgery last season. He sat in a suite down the left-field line on the Club Level. He declined to talk with reporters.