LOS ANGELES – The losses keep mounting for the Dodgers, who have shown no signs of being able to reverse their fortunes during their first homestand after the All-Star break.
Philadelphia ace Roy Halladay shrugged off a pair of second-inning runs by Los Angeles in his first start off the disabled list, Hunter Pence got him off the hook with a go-ahead, two-run single in the eighth inning against closer Kenley Jansen, and the Phillies handed the Dodgers their fourth straight loss with a 3-2 victory on Tuesday night.
"We're just trying to get through this forest and see the light at the end," catcher A.J. Ellis said after the team's 19th loss in 25 games dropped them three games behind San Francisco in the NL West. "We have to keep grinding. You can't dwell on the losses, just focus on the next day and have confidence and faith that the next day is going to start a winning streak."
Stephen Fife pitched six sharp innings in his major league debut. The bespectacled 25-year-old right-hander yielded a run and four hits, walked three and struck out one while throwing 90 pitches. He was promoted from Triple-A Albuquerque when Chad Billingsley went on the disabled list, retroactive to July 8, because of inflammation in his right elbow.
"I'll probably throw a bullpen Friday, and I'm looking to start on Monday," Billingsley said. "So I'll just be missing one start. You never want to miss a start but you have to sometimes. "
The Dodgers acquired Fife from Boston in a three-team trade that sent switch-hitting outfielder Trayvon Robinson to Seattle at the non-waiver trade deadline last year. He was 7-5 with a 4.53 ERA in 18 starts with Albuquerque.
"He did everything we asked of him, and more," catcher A.J. Ellis said. "He hung with them, and any nerves he might have had he didn't show it. It's a shame we couldn't get him that first career win tonight."
Jimmy Rollins opened the game with a double on Fife's second pitch and scored on Chase Utley's groundout. The Dodgers were clinging to a 2-1 lead in the sixth when Ryan Howard drew a one-out walk, advanced on a wild pitch and tried to score on a line-drive single by Pence. But center fielder Matt Kemp made a one-hop throw to Ellis, who stretched to his left to get the ball and made a lunging tag on Howard as he slid in head-first.
The Phillies loaded the bases in the eighth when Ronald Belisario (3-1) walked Utley with two outs, then hit Howard on the foot with a 1-2 pitch and plunked Carlos Ruiz on a full count. Pence greeted Jansen with a sharp single to center, scoring Utley and pinch-runner John Mayberry Jr. and giving him a team-high 55 RBIs.
It was Jansen's first appearance since he was on the mound when San Diego's Everth Cabrera stole home for the tying run in the Dodgers' 7-6 loss on Saturday night. Jansen has five blown saves in 21 opportunities.
Kyle Kendrick (3-8) got the victory, allowing two hits in 1 2-3 scoreless innings. Jonathan Papelbon, the sixth Phillies pitcher, worked a perfect ninth for his 21st save in 23 chances.
Halladay threw 80 pitches over five innings, allowing two runs and five hits with six strikeouts and no walks. The two-time Cy Young winner hadn't pitched for the Phillies since May 27 at St. Louis, when he faced 11 batters over two innings and gave up a grand slam to Yadier Molina during his 8-3 loss. He was diagnosed with a latissimus dorsi strain and missed 42 games.
"The big thing for me today was just coming in and being consistent with mechanics and trying to make pitches," Halladay said.
The first two batters Halladay faced, Bobby Abreu and Mark Ellis, were called out on strikes by umpire Wally Bell. Abreu tossed his bat away after a 3-2 pitch and headed to first base, thinking he had walked. Ellis also had a few words for Bell before going back to the dugout. But the Dodgers opened the second inning with four straight hits and took a 2-1 lead with RBI singles by James Loney and Luis Cruz.
"We definitely had Halladay on the ropes, but we needed to get more out of that inning than two runs," said A.J. Ellis, who lined into a double play after Cruz's hit. "But he was out there battling and he was really sharp. He's one of the game's best for a reason, and at times tonight he showed it."
NOTES: Kemp got another assist in the eighth, erasing Ruiz at third base for the third out after coming up throwing on Pence's clutch hit. ... Fife played in the 1999 Little League World Series. ... Wednesday's series finale matches 2008 AL Cy Young winner Cliff Lee against reigning NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw, who is 0-4 with a 4.95 ERA in seven regular-season starts against the Phillies. Lee is 1-6 with a 3.92 ERA in 15 starts this season, after going 17-8 last year. ... Halladay, who finished runner-up in last year's NL Cy Young voting to the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw, is four strikeouts away from 2,000 in his career. ... The Phillies freed up a roster spot for Halladay by optioning RHP Brian Sanches to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. ... Dodgers RHP Todd Coffey is scheduled to undergo Tommy John surgery on Wednesday for the second time in his career, due to a partially torn ligament in his right elbow.