"It felt like it had been forever," Halladay said. "And it really had."
August disrupted his routine, but when the game's best pitcher is on the mound, just about everything appears easy. Halladay can retire 17 batters in a row almost on command. He can stroke a three-run double to the opposite field to ensure the rest of his team's night was a cakewalk. He can escape a one-out, bases-loaded jam with no damage.
Halladay overwhelms an opponent, and Cincinnati knows this better than anyone. The Reds were the victims of his historic playoff no-hitter last October, a day thought unfathomable until Halladay stepped on the mound in the postseason. He makes the surreal perfectly normal, and that is his sublime greatness.
"I felt like the rest could help," manager Charlie Manuel said. "But I don't know if he had too long a layoff."
Suddenly, the Phillies' lead in the National League East is large once again and the moderate panic of a week ago has dissipated. In two days, the Phillies gained 1 1/2 games on Atlanta. The lead stands at 7 1/2 games with 31 to play.
The Phillies homered four times Tuesday, twice off Bronson Arroyo. He is among the worst starting pitchers in the National League this season and achieved a Reds record for ineptitude by a righthander in allowing his 35th and 36th home runs of the season.
Two of the four dingers were struck by Ryan Howard, who surpassed 100 RBIs for the sixth consecutive season, a new franchise record. Howard, whose OPS ranked 54th in the majors entering Tuesday, remains a constant power threat even in a down season.
Another homer was smoked by Hunter Pence, his sixth in 26 games as a Phillie. And later, Raul Ibanez signaled his return to the lineup from a groin injury by mashing a two-run homer to right.
Seven shutout innings for Halladay at Great American Ballpark were impressive. His swing at an 86 m.p.h. Arroyo sinker is what Tuesday will ultimately be remembered for. Before August, Halladay never cracked an extra-base hit in his 14-year career. He will end the month with two doubles to his name.
"Lucky," Halladay said. "I've been saving them, I guess. You go a couple years without one, you should have a couple coming."
Only a lengthy seventh inning prevented Halladay from pitching deeper into the night. Joey Votto doubled and Jay Bruce took a cutter in the knee. After a strikeout of Miguel Cairo, Drew Stubbs walked.
Halladay paced behind the mound and spiked the rosin bag as pitching coach Rich Dubee approached for a conversation. Ten pitches later, the inning was over and Cincinnati was still scoreless. With Halladay pitching, the threat was nothing more than a tease.
Finally, with 31 games in the next 29 days, Halladay can torture opponents on a regular basis.
"I'm actually looking forward to getting to go on five days," Halladay said, "and go out there every time and get myself in a groove and a rhythm."
But a little rest never hurt.
Contact staff writer Matt Gelb at email@example.com or @magelb on Twitter.