But in a twist, the Phillies responded. In a shock, Moyer dazzled.
And Philadelphia had a win to hang its hat on, in a spot few could have anticipated.
Thanks to eight strong innings by Moyer -- in which he allowed only three hits and pitched out of the stretch just twice -- and six early runs by the Phillies, they beat the Yankees, 6-3, at Yankee Stadium in front of 47,414 on Wednesday night.
Howard and outfielder Jayson Werth hit back-to-back home runs in the third inning -- the first time the Phillies have done that all season -- and Brad Lidge earned a shaky save in the ninth to nail down Moyer's gem.
"I think I've told you before, I don't mind giving Jamie Moyer the ball," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said, "because I know he's going to give you everything he's got when he goes out there."
The spark for Philadelphia's offense came in the second, and it was unexpected: 38-year-old outfielder Raul Ibanez stole second base with one out in the inning. He scored on a Greg Dobbs RBI single a few pitches later, opening things up for a four-run inning.
Ibanez said he stole on the 1-1 fastball by A.J. Burnett solely because first-base coach Davey Lopes told him.
"It's pretty much if he says to do something, you do it," said Ibanez. "That was a big hit, and we were able to work some good at-bats and get some things going."
It was Ibanez's first stolen base since last May.
"We tried to create something," Manuel said. "We haven't been doing too much, so we try to create things."
It was a momentous play, indicating that Philadelphia could manufacture its runs on Wednesday night -- something it has been incapable of doing during its month-long slump. The Phils scored all their runs and recorded all their hits in the first four innings; finally, it turned out to be enough.
Moyer shook off a disastrous performance in Boston on Friday to shut down the Yankees, giving up just two solo home runs, one walk with five strikeouts. It was his first career start at the new Yankee Stadium, and first against New York since 2005.
"If I dwelled on every time I lost a game, whether I've lost 1-0, 5-4, 10-0 ... " Moyer said. "I think it's all a part of the learning process and maturity that you go through over the course of the game."
Moyer fared better against New York's lineup than Halladay, who took the loss on Tuesday -- the eighth in Philadelphia's past 12 games. Moyer needed 107 pitches, giving up only two solo home runs.
"He's been doing it for a long time -- a really long time," Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said. "He never throws the ball over the plate. He hits his spots, and he's had a lot of success doing that throughout the years. To be quite honest with you, he could probably pitch another 10 years like that."
Howard's home run was a long blast to left-center field off Burnett, who ended up allowing six runs on six hits and four walks in 3 1/3 innings. It was Howard's 11th home run of the season, and third in June.
"I got it pretty good," Howard said. "He left the ball up and I was able to catch up to it."
The offensive showing was a relative outburst for Philadelphia, still mired in a slump that has traced back nearly a month. There were signs, though, of the more familiar Phillies team: power and speed (three stolen bases tied a season high).
And while Lidge made the ninth inning eventful -- the Yankees had the tying run up with two outs -- he struck out Jorge Posada on a 2-2 slider to end the game and seal a much-needed win for a reeling team.
"There's a lot of good positives for us to take out of today," Howard said. "Right now we're trying to look at the small part of the big picture and that's just trying to take it day by day. Carry it over into tomorrow and continue to build off the momentum."