Phillies defeat Jays, 5-3

Fireworks in the seventh: Chase Utley's two-run rocket off Blue Jays reliever Luis Perez put the Phillies back into the lead.
Fireworks in the seventh: Chase Utley's two-run rocket off Blue Jays reliever Luis Perez put the Phillies back into the lead. (DARREN CALABRESE / Canadian Press)
Posted: July 03, 2011

TORONTO - For nearly three minutes Saturday, they stood and cheered Roy Halladay as he threw a handful of warm-up pitches. "Something I'll never forget," Halladay would say later. This was a chance to give thanks almost 18 months overdue.

For 12 seasons, Halladay pitched here. These Blue Jays fans witnessed the metamorphosis of a 21-year-old able to flirt with a no-hitter on pure talent alone into the game's best pitcher with a machinelike work ethic, only for the narrative to flourish in a different city, a different league, and a different country.

Halladay was on the mound when it was over at Rogers Centre, having finished what he had started - a 5-3 Phillies win - and why should it be any other way? The cheers became boos, but then mutual respect overcame everyone in this building. Halladay, sensing it, tipped his cap before he disappeared into the visitors dugout after throwing 110 pitches.

"You're never sure how you're going to feel," Halladay admitted. "I was definitely anxious warming up and walking onto the field. It was definitely different. Once the game started, I felt like it was a normal game."

He pitched a complete game, a fading art in baseball revived by Halladay and appreciated in both Toronto and Philadelphia. He coughed up an early one-run lead, but after Chase Utley crushed a home run off a lefthander for the first time this season - a two-run bomb in the seventh inning off Luis Perez - the outcome was in Halladay's capable right hand.

The Phillies have not lost a game started by Halladay since May 15. He is 11-3 with a 2.44 ERA and is a prime candidate to start for the National League in the 82d All-Star Game next week.

"He's an animal," Utley said.

Everyone knew there would be emotions Saturday. Halladay tipped his cap twice Friday when he carried the Phillies lineup card to home plate. The 44,078 in attendance Saturday stood and cheered for the duration of Halladay's warm-up pitches in the middle of the first inning.

The cheers were louder when Jose Bautista, the game's best hitter, got to Halladay, the game's best pitcher. He walloped a solo home run off a window in straightaway center field below the hotel built into Rogers Centre to tie the game in the fourth.

"Might be the hardest one I've seen hit this year," Charlie Manuel said. "That might have gotten Doc a little mad, though."

With "M-V-P!" chants circling Rogers Centre in the eighth, Halladay faced Bautista again in a one-run game. This time the slugger bounced one to third.

Emotions turned ugly in the top of the ninth, when the baseball game devolved into a WWE event. A fan ran onto the field; Jays pitcher Jon Rauch ripped his jersey off during an argument with home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez; manager John Farrell brushed away the batter's box chalk with his hands; and fans threw debris onto the field.

Halladay waited it all out to throw his 64th career complete game. Utley saved the Phillies from wasting Halladay's effort. In 46 at-bats, lefties were hitting .174 against Perez without a home run. Utley had not gone yard since June 14 and was without an RBI since June 22. His timing was impeccable.

There was some strange symbolism everywhere Halladay looked. Saturday was 10 years to the day from his return to the majors from a minor-league banishment, the moment that spawned a Hall of Fame career.

"It went fast," Halladay said. "Those first few years feel like so long ago until you're back here, and you start thinking about where it all began, everything you went through, and things you came back from. You don't realize how long it's been and sometimes how hard it was. It was a good reminder."

The fans appreciated it, too, until Halladay exerted his dominance, an act they loved for years here. Now it's so bittersweet. Hours after the game, a bedsheet sign made by a fan still hung over a railing in center field.

"Welcome home Doc," it read. "Please be gentle."


Contact staff writer Matt Gelb

at mgelb@phillynews.com or @magelb on Twitter.

 

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