ATLANTA -- Phillies manager Charlie Manuel keeps watching his team move within striking distance of the NL wild card, only to take a step back.
"We could have stayed pretty good with them," Manuel said of the San Diego Padres. "Win two, lost two, that don't get it done."
Chuck James pitched seven shutout innings, Andruw Jones hit his 34th homer, and the Atlanta Braves beat Philadelphia 4-1 to drop the Phillies into a second-place tie for the NL wild card Thursday night.
San Diego, which won 4-2 at Cincinnati, is 2½ games ahead of the Phillies and San Francisco Giants, who beat Colorado 5-0.
"It's all about making pitches," Moyer said. "I don't care who you're facing, a guy who's a rookie or a guy who's played 10 years."
The 43-year-old left-hander allowed four runs and five hits in six innings.
James (10-3) pitched seven shutout innings, allowing five hits with two walks and seven strikeouts. The rookie left-hander has won four straight starts and is 6-0 with a 1.69 ERA in his last eight games.
"He tweaked his back in the second inning," Cox said of James. "When he came up, I told him to take three (pitches) and not to swing his bat. I didn't think he would make it, but he did. It just shows how tough he is."
Bob Wickman worked the ninth for his 14th save in 15 chances.
Howard, who entered with 56 homers to lead the majors, struck out twice against James and walked once.
Utley grounded out with Howard on deck to end the game.
"If we could've mustered another hit, we could have gotten Howard up to the plate," Manuel said. "Good teams, things happen like that. So far we don't have that going for us. And we need to, really.
Matt Smith pitched a scoreless seventh for the Phillies, who lost for just the 10th time in 27 road games and missed a chance to sweep a three-game series from the Braves for the first time since April 2001.
"Looking back at the time I've been here, we've been kind of streaky," said Moyer, acquired in a trade last month with Seattle. "Win a couple, lose one, win a couple, lose one. That's a tough way to play. We have to pitch better. We have to score runs. The teams that win usually play pretty sound baseball. We've got to play a little cleaner in the field."
Jones' 335th career homer tied him with Hank Aaron for third place on the Atlanta list.
James pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth by forcing Jimmy Rollins to pop out and Shane Victorino to ground into a fielder's choice.
"I've gotten a little better," James said. "When I first came up from the minors, I got a little nervous in those situations."
Cox believes James' recent successfully stretch over the last eight starts hints at the potential he could have next season.
"It's easy to say Tom Glavine," Cox said when asked to compare the rookie to a left-hander who helped anchor one of baseball's best rotations from 1991-2002. "(James is) probably not as smooth and deliberate as Tom, but he's more violent. Both are deceptive. He can turn it up."
- 3B Chipper Jones, who hasn't played since Sept. 3 because of a strained oblique, still feels pain when he swings right-handed, but hasn't given up hopes of returning next week.
- LHP Randy Wolf is likely to start on three days rest Sunday at Houston after throwing just 52 pitches and leaving with a 5-0 deficit after two full innings Wednesday.