Three hours later, Halladay stood and reflected on the brief stretch of purgatory that followed, on the several moments of inaction that rivaled the most decisive action of the game.
"Obviously, I didn't feel like it was a good pitch," the veteran righthander said later, well after notching his major league-best seventh complete game in a 3-1 victory over the Braves. "But at the same point, there isn't a whole lot you can do other than get back to your job at hand. It's something that's tough. Obviously, the bigger innings are tougher to do that with, but I feel like it's extremely important. It's a great game because there's no clock. You have to get outs to win the game, and that's something you always keep in mind."
Halladay recorded 25 of them after Jones' solo home run in the first inning, charging through the Braves lineup with the efficiency - and emotion - of a wheat combine. He threw just 93 pitches, the fewest in any of his complete games since 2006, and allowed five hits with seven strikeouts while walking one. After the first inning, he allowed just four base runners, the most threatening of them coming on a leadoff walk to Eric Hinske in the seventh and a leadoff bunt single by Gregor Blanco in the eighth.
Both times, he snapped back into character, eliminating Hinske with a doubleplay ball by Melky Cabrera, and later pumping his fist when catcher Dane Sardinha gunned down Blanco trying to steal second.
"He just pounds the strike zone," said veteran leftfielder Raul Ibanez, who went 2-for-4. "I looked up there at one point and he had thrown something like 19 of 23 pitches for strikes. He just kept pounding the zone."
It was the type of win the Phillies needed against the type of team they needed to beat. They had already lost six games when holding an opponent under three runs, twice as many as they lost all last season. Two of them had come with their new ace on the mound, and last night might have marked a third if not for a two-run home run by Greg Dobbs in the sixth inning, his first homer since April 25. In between, Dobbs had been outrighted to Triple A Lehigh Valley and recalled, and the Phillies had gone from a half-game lead in first place to a five-game deficit in third.
"The personal stuff aside, you want to go out and help the club win - that's the main goal," said Dobbs, who was recalled after third baseman Placido Polanco was placed on the disabled list last week. "So if personally you have a good day, it feels better that you helped the club win, because you know you did something. You know you contributed."
Asked to measure the benefit of the at-bats Dobbs has logged in place of Polanco, manager Charlie Manuel replied, "I'd say about 10,000 percent."
The bump the Phillies received in the standings was less drastic, but after a dreadful road trip in which they lost two out of three to the Central Division-leading Reds and three out of four to the last-place Pirates - not to mention Polanco and second baseman Chase Utley - Manuel admitted yesterday that this three-game set against the Braves isn't your average early-July series.
"It was a very big game for us," the manager said, breaking from his usual every-one-is-important rhetoric.
The stakes might have been even bigger for Halladay, who 5 days earlier allowed a game-winning two-run homer to Jay Bruce in the eighth inning of a 4-3 loss to the Reds. He atoned for the hiccup last night, and will get another crack at the Reds this weekend.
"There's always times, even in the course of a game, you're trying to make up for what you've already lost, and you can't do that in baseball," said Halladay, who is now 10-7 with a 2.33 ERA. "There's no way you're going to get it back. That's something that becomes very important, not only game-to-game, but within a game. You have a tough inning early, and to be able to stick to your approach and continue to pitch your game I think is important."
Geoff Jenkins, whose pinch-hit double helped give the Phillies a lead in the sixth inning of their World Series clincher against the Rays, will officially retire as a Brewer, the club announced yesterday . . . Righthander Ryan Madson (toe) allowed one run on one hit and two walks in two-thirds of an inning at Triple A Lehigh Valley.
For more Phillies coverage and opinion, read David Murphy's blog, High Cheese, at http://go.philly.com/highcheese.