After the game, Halladay said he has experienced spasms behind his shoulder recently, but also said he would prefer to work through those issues and take his final two starts of the season. At the end of what has been a physically and mentally draining season for Halladay, the Phillies should spare him that. He's given enough.
"It's obviously been a tough year . . . going into the DL [Disabled List] stint, coming off the DL stint. It seems like it's been things here and there," Halladay said. "You do the same things year after year. I feel I need to make some changes and do things differently. I think that comes with age."
Having him stay in the rotation when he isn't himself and when he is questioning everything about his preparation and methods isn't fair to the player, and it is potentially dangerous. And what's the point now?
The wild-card fantasy flamed out on Saturday and did so quickly and cruelly. The Phils have been chasing the Cardinals for the second wild-card spot. With a St. Louis loss and a win from Halladay, they could have climbed within two games of that spot with 10 left to play. Not a great chance perhaps, but enough to provide reasonable hope.
It was lining up just that way for the Phillies until the Cubs blew a ninth-inning lead to the Cards, on the way to an extra-inning loss, and until Halladay took the ball and couldn't do very much with it. By the end of the second inning in Citizens Bank Park, the Cardinals had placed their win on the out-of-town scoreboard and the Braves had hung seven runs on Halladay on the big board. Make that four games back with 10 to play and we'll see you in Clearwater.
Since Halladay came back in mid-July from what was termed a strained back muscle, he has pitched with more guts than stuff. There's no way to tell without a peek inside, but something appears to be wrong. Halladay didn't have good location and didn't have a fastball with any movement on Saturday. The Braves were content to sit and wait for it, adjusting to his curves and changeups as necessary.
He was throwing full-count breaking pitches, and pitching backward in the count to keep the Braves as off-balance as possible, but the deception didn't work this time. He threw 51 pitches, got just five outs and his earned-run average since rejoining the rotation rose to 5.47.
So when Charlie Manuel went and got him after Jason Heyward jumped on a 2-and-2 curveball and doubled to clear the bases in the second, some folks booed, which they had a right to do since they don't realize most of their heroes would have removed themselves from the active roster in Halladay's situation.
Instead, he gave it what he had because that's his nature, and, like most of what the Phillies tried this season, it wasn't enough. Pat him on the back now, take the ball and don't give it to him again. The Phils should shut down Halladay for his good, and for the good of the 2013 season, which is the next time the results will matter. Get that peek inside the shoulder if that's the thing to do, and if there is repair work needed, the sooner the better for next season.
"If it's not going to hurt him, [then] to pitch is OK," manager Charlie Manuel said. "And if it's not going to get him hurt. So, we'll see."
The last part is the difficult one to predict. If he's pitching despite recent spasms in the area, why exactly would that be a risk worth taking now that the wild-card hopes have been effectively extinguished?
If Halladay were to stay in the rotation and remain on regular rest, he would pitch Thursday against the Nationals in the Phillies' last home game of the season. That game seems several years removed from the April opener in Pittsburgh when Halladay went eight innings, allowed two hits and the Phils got off to a hopeful beginning.
That was then. Now there is no reason to keep poking the campfire, looking for embers that have gone out.
Contact columnist Bob Ford at firstname.lastname@example.org, read his blog at www.philly.com/postpatterns, and follow @bobfordsports on Twitter.