Inside the Phillies: No certainties in baseball, either

Phillies Roy Halladay comes into the bench after pitching against the Arizona Diamondbacks.( Ron Cortes / Staff Photographer ) editor's note: PHILS17, Philadelphia Phillies vs Arizona Diamondbacks at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday, August 16, 2011.
Phillies Roy Halladay comes into the bench after pitching against the Arizona Diamondbacks.( Ron Cortes / Staff Photographer ) editor's note: PHILS17, Philadelphia Phillies vs Arizona Diamondbacks at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday, August 16, 2011. (Ronald Cortes)
Posted: August 17, 2011

The anxiety will build even if the Phillies' substantial lead in the National League East remains intact.

When the goal is World Series or bust and you believe you're watching the best team in baseball, it's often difficult to remember that anything can and often does happen in the world of sports.

For proof, we take you to Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday night, where Roy Halladay went to the mound in the top of the ninth inning with a 2-1 lead against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

When it comes to finishing what he starts, nobody in baseball is better than the Phillies' ace of all aces. He has led his league in complete games each of the last four seasons and six of the last eight years. He's leading the league in that category again this year.

Not much is guaranteed in this life, but Halladay finishing off his opponent in the ninth inning ranks right behind death, taxes and Mariano Rivera.

Except on this night, Halladay completed his start, but couldn't finish off the game.

He said "two bad pitches" cost him in the ninth inning - the first resulted in a leadoff single by Justin Upton and the second a two-run double by Lyle Overbay - and the resurgent Diamondbacks took advantage to score twice, pulling out a 3-2 victory that allowed them to build a 31/2-game lead over the freefalling San Francisco Giants in the National League West.

Yes, the anxiety level should rise a little bit because it's very possible that these same Diamondbacks could be back in Philadelphia for the start of a division series come October. And, yes, the anxiety level should also rise because even a pitcher as good as Halladay can be beaten on a night when he seems in absolute command.

"[Losses] all bother me, but they can sometimes be a little tougher to swallow when you lose in the ninth rather than get blown out in the third, but that's the way the game goes," Halladay said. "Especially in close games, you're one or two pitches away from things going the way you want them to or going the opposite."

It didn't matter that Halladay thought he had Upton struck out before he delivered his leadoff single. Halladay was disgusted after he gave up the hit, but not because he didn't get a call earlier in the at-bat.

"I felt like it was a good pitch, but you have to make good pitches after that," Halladay said. "If you're going to come in on him, you have to come in deep. I was more upset about not making a good pitch than not getting a call."

That's baseball, manager Charlie Manuel said after watching a rare instance in which Halladay couldn't close out the opposition.

"That's the way it goes," Manuel said. "A guy [Overbay] hit a ball in the right spot and they ended up beating us. That's all part of it. There has never been the perfect pitcher or the perfect player and there never will be."

Halladay has pitched a perfect game and a postseason no-hitter. He's about as close to perfect as you get from a pitcher in the big leagues.

That's why Manuel had zero trepidation about sending the ace of all clubs to the mound in the top of the ninth. At that point, Halladay was in command. He had thrown only 96 pitches and he had retired 12 batters in a row.

Yes, Antonio Bastardo and Ryan Madson were warming up in the bullpen, but once Halladay stepped on the mound in the ninth, it was his game.

"That's my ace," Manuel said. "That's kind of the way I look at it. If I was going to make a move, how come I didn't make it at the start of the inning? He was sitting in a good spot."

This night was proof that you can have a losing hand even with your ace on the mound and that's why anxious moments await in this postseason even if the Phillies are absolutely the best team in baseball.


Inside the Phillies:

Read how Jim Thome, who hit his 600th career home run on Monday, changed the Phillies' culture years ago at www.philly.com/phillies


Contact staff writer Bob Brookover at bbrookover@phillynews.com or @brookob on Twitter.

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