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Halladay allows one run in 6 1/3 frames

LOS ANGELES -- One question struck the Phillies as their three-run lead started to unravel in the eighth inning Monday at Dodger Stadium:

When was the last time this happened?

As hyped as the Phillies' rotation has been, their bullpen has been especially effective despite injuries that have forced four pitchers -- Jose Contreras, Ryan Madson, Antonio Bastardo and Brad Lidge -- into the closer's role. The Phillies entered Monday's 5-3 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium having blown a big league low three saves in 36 opportunities this season. Most of those saves have been smooth experiences -- there haven't been too many close-your-eyes-and-wish-for-the-best moments -- but on a night when they did not have their best, they still found a way to get the big outs at the big moments to preserve a victory.

"I've been on teams when it's never guaranteed, even getting through eight innings it's never guaranteed," said Phillies ace Roy Halladay, who earned his National League-leading 15th win. "The way our bullpen has closed things down, you really feel if you get through six, seven innings you have a chance to win the game. They've been very good. Even on nights like tonight when it's not the best you've ever seen them they find ways to get it done."

The Phillies are 7-1 on their 10-game road trip through Denver, San Francisco and Los Angeles. If the Phillies can win the remaining two games on the trip -- they have Cliff Lee (11-7, 2.96 ERA) pitching Tuesday and Vance Worley (8-1, 2.35) pitching Wednesday -- they would have their best 10-game road trip in franchise history.

In fact, based on winning percentage, it would be the third-best road trip in franchise history.

The Phillies carried a 4-1 lead into the bottom of the seventh inning with help from Shane Victorino and Jimmy Rollins. Victorino had doubled twice and scored twice, and Rollins doubled to score two runs in the second. Halladay allowed nine hits, one run and two walks and struck out four in 6 1/3 innings. He got into trouble in the seventh, and Phillies manager Charlie Manuel pulled him with runners on first and second and one out.

Left-hander Bastardo entered the game and promptly fell behind 3-0 to Andre Ethier before getting him to ground into an inning-ending double play.

"I'm more comfortable because I've been pitching in those situations more," Bastardo said. "I was trying to come back [against Ethier] and make my best pitch."

Bastardo entered the night second among NL relievers in opponents average (.128), fifth in ERA (1.49) and seventh in wins (five). He has been a godsend to a team that had Lidge, Madson and Contreras on the disabled list at the same time this season. It almost is hard to believe he entered the season as J.C. Romero's understudy with plenty to prove in the eyes of Manuel, pitching coach Rich Dubee and others.

But things got unusually hairy in the eighth. Mike Stutes, who has been nearly as reliable as Bastardo, allowed two hits and a run to make it 4-2 before Manuel called for Lidge, who suddenly was pitching in his tightest spot since closing last season.

He walked Rod Barajas and allowed a single to Juan Rivera to allow another run to score to make it 4-3. But Lidge got a big break when Dee Gordon grounded a ball to second base and Rivera bowled over Chase Utley causing the second out and runner's interference. Instead of having pinch-runner Eugenio Velez on third with two outs, he had to return to second.

That proved big because Lidge's wild pitch in his at-bat with Tony Gwynn would have allowed the tying run to score. Lidge instead got out of the inning when Gwynn unsuccessfully tried to bunt for a hit.

"That's how it works," Gwynn said. "If you get it down, it's a good play, if you don't get it down, you look stupid."

Victorino, who earlier in the day appealed his three-game suspension for his role in Friday's bench-clearing brawl in San Francisco, gave the Phillies some breathing room in the ninth when he hit a solo homer to right to give the Phillies a two-run lead.

Madson, who is back in the closer's role, pitched a scoreless ninth to pick up his 20th save.

"We've been really good," Madson said. "Tomorrow we're going to go out there with the same kind of confidence we had today. That's been the thing. We've just been really confident in what we're doing." Comments