"I think the hard part is you think about all the work you put in over the course of the year and then leading up to the game today and how big that is going to be, and then, all of a sudden, that just kind of dissipates," Halladay said. "It's tough. It's hard to have it end like that. You always want to finish happy. It's hard to finish the season losing."
Halladay took the loss because he surrendered a first-inning run and the Phillies could only manage three hits in nine scoreless innings against Carpenter. The ace of a team filled with aces gave credit to his friend Carpenter for his complete game and to the Cardinals for coming out aggressively.
Rafael Furcal opened the game with a triple and may have been out at third base if centerfielder Shane Victorino would have hit Chase Utley with his cutoff throw. Victorino, who had two of the Phillies' three hits, did not speak after the game.
Furcal's triple marked the 17th time in 34 starts by Halladay that the leadoff man reached base against him. Sixteen reached by hits. Furcal scored the game's only run when Skip Schumaker fouled off five two-strike pitches before delivering an RBI double down the right-field line.
"They came out trying to get us early," Halladay said. "The ball was up [to Furcal] and then Schumaker, that was a good at-bat. I threw him two or three pitches, and he kept fouling them off, and he was taking balls on the edge and got . . . I don't think it was a terrible curveball, but it was a very good at-bat. I threw a lot of pitches and really had to work. They came out fighting early."
Halladay needed 33 pitches to get through the first inning, but then allowed just four hits the rest of the game.
He escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the eighth inning by striking out Lance Berkman and getting Matt Holliday on a fly ball to left field. The crowd at Citizens Bank Park, loud the entire game, may have been at its peak during that sequence, and Halladay was appreciative.
"This is by far the greatest place I've ever played and the greatest fans that I've ever been around, and that was as loud as I've ever heard it here," Halladay said. "It really was a special feeling to be out there and to have the fans behind you like that. You're just trying to go pitch to pitch, and I was doing everything I could. It was really electric. It was something I'll never forget."
In time, Halladay will also want to remember the 2011 season. It's not every day that a team wins 102 games during the regular season and he may have been better in his second season in Philadelphia than he was in his first, even though he won two fewer games.
The Phillies, of course, took a step backward for the third straight year by failing to win the division series, but Halladay said he can't wait to try again in 2012.
"We came up short," he said. "Obviously winning the World Series is the ultimate goal for us . . . so yeah, it's tough right now. I just think when you get to this point in this season, you have to catch some breaks and have things go your way.
"Honestly, I don't care where you go, there is no team where you're guaranteed to win anything. We have an unbelievable team here. Winning the World Series is always going to be the goal, but when I came over here, I didn't think it was going to be easy. I knew it was going to be hard. I knew it is not something you do every year.
"I really enjoy the process of going after it, playing the games and getting to this point in the season. I think you hate to lose. This is why you play all these games and ultimately win the World Series, but I think going after it is fun, and because you don't win every year, it makes it more of a challenge."
Contact staff writer Bob Brookover
at email@example.com or @brookob on Twitter.