PHILADELPHIA — Reliever Ken Howell threw 14 pitches in the ninth inning of the Dodgers' 2-1 loss here Sunday afternoon. Twelve of them were balls.
Of course, that's not counting the bullet Howell threw to first baseman Bill Madlock on an attempted pickoff play.
"That one he threw at 95 miles an hour," Philadelphia Manager John Felske noted.
Madlock, who had just switched from third to first at the start of the inning, didn't have a radar gun in his possession, so he couldn't confirm the speed reading. He had the right mitt, but for all the good it did him, Madlock might as well have been wearing an oven mitt.
Howell's throw clanged off Madlock's glove, allowing Juan Samuel, who had lined Howell's first pitch for a single, to advance to second.
Madlock was charged with the error, his team-high 24th of the season. Madlock, in turn, charged Howell with possessing a short memory.
"I talked to him just before he threw over," Madlock said. "I told him I couldn't see over there, and if he was going to throw over, to lob it. He (Samuel) is not a guy you're going to pick off, anyway.
"I said, 'Whatever you do, don't gas it.' He gassed it."
Soon after, Howell gassed the Dodgers, too. He walked pinch-hitter Greg Gross intentionally, walked No. 8 hitter Steve Jeltz to load the bases, then threw four straight balls to pinch-hitter Ron Roenicke to force home the winning run.
Howell was left to contemplate another loss--his 10th of the season, the Dodgers' sixth in nine games on this trip, and their 33rd in 59 one-run games this season.
His vision of what has gone wrong this season is as clouded, in his mind, as the vision of the home-plate umpires who are reducing the size of home plate whenever he pitches.
"Maybe I just threw all balls, I guess," he said. "You tell me. I put the ball where the catcher sets up, but I can't call a game. It's the same thing all the time.
"When you start missing and throw ball one, then ball two, you get into a rhythm, and so does the umpire. Then when you throw a strike, I think you shock him."
Catcher Mike Scioscia, who was on the receiving end in the ninth, listened as Howell's anguished call of the wild was related to him, then politely disagreed.
"Kenny's had a little trouble but I don't think it's the umpires," Scioscia said.
"He's a little frustrated when you talk to him right after a tough loss, filled with a lot of emotion.
"Umpires are going to miss a pitch here and there, but I don't think Kenny's problem is with the umpires."
That's a dangerous state of mind for Howell to be in, Madlock said.
"You can't think that way," Madlock said. "You might think it's true, but you still can't be thinking that way."
It was apparent that Howell and Madlock weren't on the same wavelength on the pickoff.
"How was I supposed to throw it over, lob it?" Howell said. "I had to show the guy (Samuel) I had the guts to throw it over there. If I'm going to make the throw, I'm going to make a good throw.
"It just went off his glove and got away."
Typically, the Dodgers let this game get away, failing to score despite three straight singles that opened the fifth, and coming away empty in the eighth despite a walk and two singles to start the inning.
Each time, a Dodger was cut down on the bases. Alex Trevino was thrown out trying to stretch a single in the fifth, and Dave Anderson was out trying to take third on Bill Russell's single in the eighth.
And each time, a first-pitch double play ended the inning, Anderson closing out the fifth in that fashion, and pinch-hitter Len Matuszek doing the same in the eighth.
Russell scored the Dodger run in the sixth when he hit a pinch single, advanced on two ground balls and scored on an infield hit by rookie Larry See.
Another Dodger rookie, pitcher Brian Holton, limited the Phillies to one run, a first-inning homer by Milt Thompson, in five innings in his first big-league start, but managed no better than a no-decision.
"I haven't been through this too many times," said Russell, who passed of Pee Wee Reese on the Dodgers' all-time games played list and trails only Zack Wheat.
"It's tough to sit back and see what's going on. This has been the toughest I've seen. . . . We know we have a good team."
What can be done to keep a good team from folding their tents for the rest of the season?
"Nothing more," Russell said. "Tommy tells us every day. There's no need to say it. Hopefully, we can learn from our mistakes."