Phillies' Halladay grinds, sweats through a win over Nationals

Raul Ibanez eyes the ball before connecting on a sacrifice fly in the seventh inning, driving home Chase Utley with the go-ahead run.
Raul Ibanez eyes the ball before connecting on a sacrifice fly in the seventh inning, driving home Chase Utley with the go-ahead run. (CHUCK MYERS / McClatchy-Tribune News Service)
Posted: May 31, 2011

WASHINGTON - The typical postgame workout commenced sometime in the eighth inning, but this was at least an activity Roy Halladay could do in the comfort of air-conditioning.

Forty-eight starts in a Phillies uniform by Halladay have offered enough hints into the mind of a robotic ace. So we know this: When Halladay pounded his right fist into his glove after throwing his 111th pitch - a swing-and-a-miss by Jayson Werth - in sweltering mid-90s heat, he was happy.

He knew his day on the mound was done; a 5-4 Phillies win over the Nationals was the result attached to him. The gray uniform drenched in sweat from a laborious seven innings was another.

"I don't know what helps when it gets that hot," Halladay said Monday afternoon.

Not much can, but this was just another day to appreciate the beauty of a Roy Halladay start. No, this was not Halladay at his best, but that made it all the more impressive. He allowed three home runs for only the 11th time in his 14-year career. He surrendered at least 10 hits for the second straight start, the first time he's done that as a Phillie.

All three long balls were solo shots, though, and that enabled Halladay to pitch deep into this game even with temperatures reaching 95 degrees with a 99-degree heat index.

"I didn't feel exhausted," Halladay said. "I was definitely up to the challenge. I let it get away from me a couple times in other games in those situations. The way the [seventh] inning started - broken bat down the line and a perfectly executed bunt - it was nice to have a few things go our way there."

Or, as Charlie Manuel succinctly put it: "That's conditioning."

Halladay surrendered a lead in the fifth by allowing the second home run. He let the Nationals jump ahead with another long ball in the sixth.

Then, once the Phillies had taken a 5-4 lead with two runs in the seventh, Washington threatened again. Alex Cora broke his bat on a double. Ian Desmond reached on a bunt single to put runners on first and third with no one out.

That's when Rick Ankiel hit a comebacker that Halladay knocked down and threw to Carlos Ruiz at home. Ruiz executed the rundown to perfection and Cora, the lead runner, was out on a play Manuel said "changed the complexion of the game." Danny Espinosa flied out to left, and Werth fanned on the sixth pitch of his at-bat, a devastating, 94-m.p.h. cutter on the outside corner.

"That's who he is," Manuel said of Halladay. "He wants to be there."

He was in a position to win only because his offense provided timely support. Manuel rearranged his lineup by swapping Placido Polanco and Chase Utley in the batting order, meaning three consecutive lefties formed the heart of the order.

With a one-run lead in the seventh inning and three lefties due up, Nationals manager Jim Riggleman was compelled to remove his starter, Livan Hernandez, with only 104 pitches because of the favorable matchups. That's just what the Phillies wanted.

"I did that for a reason," Manuel said.

Sean Burnett, Washington's lefty specialist, had held lefthanders to a .179 batting average this season. Like Saturday night at Citi Field, when the Mets turned to their two lefty specialists to navigate through a jam, this strategy failed. All three lefthanded batters delivered.

Utley walked on eight pitches against Burnett. Ryan Howard hit a worm-burner through the shift to score Polanco from second and tie the game. Raul Ibanez hit a deep-enough fly ball to right to score Utley on a sacrifice fly for the lead.

The rest was up to Halladay, not at his finest but still remarkable to watch.

"It was a grind," Halladay said. "It really was."


Contact staff writer Matt Gelb at mgelb@phillynews.com or @magelb on Twitter.

 

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