Phil Sheridan: Ailing ace does part for team

Roy Halladay talks with pitching coach Rich Dubee between the seventh and eighth innings. He went six innings, allowing two runs on six hits. He walked two and struck out five batters.
Roy Halladay talks with pitching coach Rich Dubee between the seventh and eighth innings. He went six innings, allowing two runs on six hits. He walked two and struck out five batters.
Posted: October 22, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO - It isn't easy to outdo a historic playoff no-hitter, and there was nothing easy about what Roy Halladay did here Thursday night.

He pitched the biggest game of his career on one leg, outdueling two-time, two-legged Cy Young Award-winner Tim Lincecum and keeping the Phillies alive in the National League Championship Series.

The Halladay who pitched a perfect game in May and a no-hitter in his playoff debut was a smooth, nearly robotic out machine. The Halladay who won Game 5, 4-2, was 100-percent human - emotional, fallible, vulnerable, injured.

Halladay strained a groin muscle in his right leg - the leg he drives off to put power behind his pitches - while throwing a second-inning fastball. He pitched four more innings after that, supplementing his diminished fastball with an array of biting curveballs and change-ups.

"It wasn't ideal," Halladay said with characteristic understatement. "We had the same game plan, but I had to find another way to get it there."

What Halladay did here was tougher than what he did to the Cincinnati Reds. He pitched in pain, he pitched in rain. He pitched smart and with heart. He worked harder to deliver six good innings than he did to pitch nine brilliant, no-hit innings in the division series.

"It won't go down as this," reliever Brad Lidge said, "but I think it was one of the most impressive outings he's ever had. He gutted out, with a lot less than 100 percent out there. Despite not having one of his legs underneath him, he was able to keep the lead in our favor. That was huge for us. You can't really imagine how important that is, to give our bullpen that many innings like that, with an injury."

The bullpen came through spectacularly, but it was Halladay who held the Giants in check long enough for the Phillies to scratch out a few runs against Lincecum. Now they need Roy Oswalt to force a Game 7 and Cole Hamels to deliver one more gem.

"I think everybody has to feel good about our situation," Halladay said. "We're going back to our place and, really, have two of our best pitchers down the stretch going out there. We've got to win two games, and we've got two great pitchers going out there."

The Giants learned Thursday night that it's hard to close out a series against an experienced team and especially against very good pitching. Going back to Philadelphia, the pressure is only going to ratchet up a couple thousand notches.

Ideally, in the biggest start of his life, Halladay would have loved to take the mound with the arsenal he deployed against the Reds.

Even before the injury, he looked merely mortal. Halladay walked the leadoff batter, Andres Torres, then gave up a base hit to Freddy Sanchez. Torres went to third on the hit, then scored when Chase Utley could get just one out on a Buster Posey grounder.

Halladay retired Pat Burrell on a called third strike, then had the audacity to look over while Burrell complained to plate umpire Jeff Nelson. Burrell made lip readers everywhere blush by screaming a string of obscenities at Halladay. The Fox cameras caught Halladay, eyes blazing with anger, as he wrapped up his arm with a towel in the dugout.

"There's a lot of emotion," Halladay said. "I was looking at him, but I don't know if that initiates anything. I thought it was a pretty good pitch."

It was during an at-bat by the relentless Cody Ross that Halladay felt a familiar pain in his right groin muscle. He spent time on the disabled list last season with a groin injury, one he said was much more severe than this.

"At this point, nobody wants to come out," Halladay said. "You do what you can to find ways and make adjustments."

He gave up back-to-back doubles to Burrell and Ross in the fourth, then was saved by a terrific throw by Jayson Werth. After that inning-ending double play, Halladay looked as happy as he had appeared angry after the first.

After that, it was a matter of grinding his way through two more innings. Halladay allowed a couple of singles in the fifth but got Aubrey Huff to end the rally. He walked the leadoff man again in the sixth and gave up a two-out single to Pablo Sandoval, then struck out Juan Uribe to preserve the Phillies' one-run lead.

Halladay came to Philadelphia for the chance to pitch in the postseason. He has had a wide range of experiences: the no-hitter, a disappointing loss, a workmanlike win. If he's going to experience the World Series, though, it's going to be up to Oswalt, Hamels and this enigmatic lineup.

Halladay's work in this series is almost certainly finished. He just hopes the same isn't true of his season.


Contact columnist Phil Sheridan at 215-854-2844

or psheridan@phillynews.com. Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/philsheridan

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