PHOENIX — Brandon McCarthy had his best outing of the season, putting himself in position to win for the first time since a horrific head injury last year.
After a call to the bullpen by Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson, McCarthy's winless streak is still going.
McCarthy was pulled after eight scoreless innings and 88 pitches, and Arizona's relievers blew a late lead behind the right-hander for the third time this season during a 4-2 loss in 10 innings to the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday.
"I guess we went the way we thought was the best way to go," Gibson said. "It didn't work out. We know now it didn't work out and even if we left him in we don't know how that would have worked out. Sometimes you make decisions and it doesn't work out. That was my decision."
McCarthy had an early lead after Gerardo Parra hit his second career leadoff homer and A.J. Pollock drove in another run in the first inning against Kyle Kendrick.
Inconsistent through most of his first season with Arizona, McCarthy was sharp in his eighth start for the Diamondbacks, scattering seven singles and striking out five.
Instead of sending him out for the ninth, Gibson turned to Heath Bell, who had earned three straight saves since closer J.J. Putz went on the disabled list.
Bell allowed two runs in the ninth to tie the game and Matt Reynolds (0-1) gave up four hits in the 10th, including a bloop single by Ryan Howard for the winning runs.
"The disappointment is us not getting a win," said McCarthy, who has not won in seven starts since being hit in the head by a line drive last Sept. 5. "I really don't care if I don't get a win. It's an inconsequential stat, it has no effect on me one way or the other. We would like to win that game as a team."
Unable to string hits together against McCarthy, the Phillies scored two runs in the ninth against Bell on Delmon Young's double and Domonic Brown's single up the middle.
Justin De Fratus (1-0) got a huge out with a runner on in the bottom half, striking out Paul Goldschmidt – who began the day second in the NL with 30 RBIs.
Jimmy Rollins followed with a one-out single in the 10th off Reynolds, and Chase Utley followed with his fourth hit, a double to the corner in right.
Hitless in his previous 18 at-bats with nine strikeouts, Howard came up against Reynolds, who had not allowed a run in 19 straight appearances to open the season.
Swinging on an inside pitch, Howard muscled a ball to right that likely would have been caught had the Diamondbacks been in their usual shift for the Phillies' slugger. Instead of sending the second baseman out to shallow right against Howard, Arizona had its infield drawn in and the ball landed safely on the outfield grass, allowing Rollins and Utley to score.
Jonathan Papelbon worked a one-hit 10th for his seventh save in as many chances and the Phillies had 15 hits – none bigger than Howard's.
"When he's going bad, he looks bad, but he can take one swing and get the game over," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.
McCarthy was solid in his previous outing, giving up three runs over 6 2-3 innings against the Dodgers, but didn't figure in the decision after the Diamondbacks pulled out a victory in the ninth inning.
Staked to an early 2-0 lead this time, he was sharp against Philadelphia, shaking off a pair of singles in the second inning by getting groundouts and stranding runners every time the Phillies got hits.
First baseman Eric Hinske gave McCarthy some help in the sixth with a diving stop on a hard-hit ball by Howard, and shortstop Didi Gregorius ended the seventh with a double play after coming up with a tough one-hopper.
McCarthy induced another double play after pinch-hitter Michael Young led off the eighth with a single. McCarthy pitched eight scoreless innings for the first time since Sept. 3, 2011, against Seattle.
"At 88 (pitches) I was a little tired but I felt that I was at least shoring some things up," he said. "It is an inning that I always like to go back out. The last few weeks haven't been smooth and I haven't really been a guy that you counted on. I would like to get that reputation back where it is a no-brainer and I get the ball in the ninth."
NOTES: McCarthy hasn't won since Aug. 31 against Boston while pitching for Oakland. ... Reynolds' 19 straight scoreless outings matched Joe Patterson's 2011 team record. ... Diamondbacks LHP Wade Miley, who starts Monday's series opener against Atlanta, has allowed two earned runs in 11 innings in two home starts this season.