Rollins bobbled the ball, but he collected it in time so a good throw would still result in an out. He knew Omar Infante was running to first. ("He's not a flyer by any means," Rollins said.) He knew the throw would be longer now that he had bobbled it and was flat-footed. "You can't take that extra shuffle step," Rollins said.
But he did not know it was going wide of first base until he saw Howard stretching for it. Then, forget about the score, the matchup, the haze creeping over the outfield, everything.
"Aw, damn," Rollins thought to himself.
This game was not decided on the mound. One ball left the infield in the bottom of the eighth. Infante reached on Rollins' error. He moved to second on a wild pitch that catcher Dane Sardinha later said he should have had. Infante advanced to third on a two-strike stroke of luck that was a groundout to second by 23-year-old pinch-hitter Osvaldo Martinez. He scored on a ball dunked into shallow center field by Chris Coghlan, and that was that.
"That's a tough way to lose a game," manager Charlie Manuel said.
Every mistake, as expected, was magnified. They will not dig out the pitching rubber and present it to the winner as they did the last time these two pitchers squared off in this stadium, but this game was every bit as good as anticipated.
Halladay, through little fault of his own, emerged as the loser. He had retired 13 Florida batters in a row before Infante reached on the Rollins error.
"I'm trying to limit mistakes as much as I can, regardless of who you're facing," Halladay said. "Unfortunately, it turned out that the little stuff did matter. You can't go in being cautious. But it did."
Halladay outlasted Johnson, but it was little consolation. In eight innings, the Phillies ace threw 115 pitches for his third complete game of the season. He struck out nine and walked two - one of which severely hurt him.
In 353 career games, Halladay had issued 492 walks before Tuesday. None was to the opposing pitcher. With one out in the third inning, Johnson took all six pitches Halladay threw him. The sixth was a fastball low for ball four.
"I just walked him," Halladay said. "I don't know what else to tell you."
Halladay screamed a profanity and snatched the ball tossed back to him by Sardinha. Johnson scored after a double and a sacrifice fly to tie the game.
The Phillies let Johnson escape trouble early and often, leaving the bases loaded twice. He allowed six hits and walked three in seven innings. The lone run came on an opposite-field home run by Howard in the second.
That inning could have and should have been more profitable for the Phillies. After Howard's homer, the next three batters reached base with no outs. Sardinha and Halladay struck out before Rollins grounded out to second.
"You have to get something across," Manuel said. "Hit into a double play, we'll get a run. Whatever. It didn't happen. Sometimes that's the way it goes."
There was no perfection this time. Instead, a routine baseball play decided everything.
Contact staff writer Matt Gelb
at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/magelb.