ST. LOUIS - The first hint that something was amiss came with the Phillies batting in the top of the second. Out in the visitors' bullpen, beyond the leftfield fence at Busch Stadium, Andrew Carpenter began warming up.
Sure enough. Bad news. When Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina stepped up to lead off the bottom of the inning, starter Jamie Moyer remained in the dugout. Carpenter, who had been called up from Triple A Lehigh Valley earlier in the day and had just gotten off a plane from Indianapolis a few hours earlier, was thrown right into the action.
The announcement: Moyer had left the game with what was described as a left elbow strain.
Then Carpenter, who had been used as a starter in the minors and whose role was to be a long man in the big leagues, left the game after just 49 pitches. He took a comebacker off his right wrist in the fourth, leaving a visible bruise, but said he was fine.
What all this means to the Phillies' season and the 47-year-old Moyer's career will be sorted out in the days to come. The immediate impact is that it made the team's concerns about whether the rotation is strong enough to keep the team in contention more acute and increased the pressure on general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. to locate reinforcements.
Manager Charlie Manuel, who remained closeted with Amaro for more than a half hour after the final out, said he "definitely" expects Moyer to be placed on the disabled list. Moyer said he expected to fly back to Philadelphia to be examined.
Lefthander J.A. Happ, who has been sidelined by a left forearm strain, is almost certain to get the first call. He was lifted from his start for Lehigh Valley last night after three shutout innings during which he struck out three and didn't walk a batter. He was reportedly throwing 92-93 mph.
Said Moyer: "It's a little sore. I just couldn't finish pitches. I personally felt pitching with it would have been a detriment to the team. I expect to pitch again. When that is, I have no idea. I just want to keep a positive mental outlook."
If nothing else, these developments overshadowed another desultory loss, 7-1, that dropped the Phils a season-worst seven games out of first place. They are now 1-5 since the All-Star break.
And it significantly increased the angst of the defending National League champions, who have already had to make do without Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Placido Polanco, Carlos Ruiz, Brad Lidge, Ryan Madson, J.C. Romero and Happ for significant portions of the schedule.
Moyer had been ineffective in his previous two starts, allowing a total of 13 earned runs in just 8 1/3 innings.
He didn't deny that he may have been experiencing discomfort before last night. "Let's just talk about tonight," he said when the subject was raised.
He gave up a pair of two-out singles in the bottom of the first but got out of the inning unscathed when Allen Craig lined out to center. And then he was gone.
Even though Carpenter had been a starter all year, he didn't think making the adjustment to pitching in relief would be an issue.
"It's just a mind-set, I guess," he said after arriving in the clubhouse. "It might take me a little bit to get warmed up. If they give me a half-inning or so, it should be good. I'll get ready as fast as I can."
Carpenter hadn't pitched since Friday.
He gave up a two-run homer to Randy Winn in the third and another run on a wild pitch in the fourth after Molina doubled and pitcher Chris Carpenter singled with one out.
The game got out of hand when Danys Baez came in and allowed a three-run homer to Matt Holliday in the fifth.
First baseman Ryan Howard continued to express confidence that the Phillies will bounce back.
"It has to turn around the next day. You don't want things like this continuing," he said. "I know it gets a little clichéd, but that's the only way to look at it. We've got to figure something out, because obviously the way we've been doing it isn't working.
"Everything is still the same from what I can tell, still very upbeat. We know there is something weird going on. It's something we've been through before, but at the same time it isn't. We have to roll with things."
Manuel also expressed confidence that the Phillies can come back, but admitted again that there is cause for concern.
"Running off a winning streak, you've got to be playing well," he said. "If we're going to keep our heads above water, we're going to have to start playing better. The biggest thing is staying positive and grinding it out. I think we're still positive. At the same time, it's hard to keep a lot of spirit because we've been behind all the time lately."
Slumping Jayson Werth and Jimmy Rollins were among the Phillies taking early batting practice yesterday . . . The Phillies have scored 3 or fewer runs in 45 of their 93 games this season, 48.4 percent.