The latest flop from Citizens Bank Park was nationally televised, and the images jarred the baseball world. There was Halladay, sweaty and red-faced, unable to challenge a pedestrian lineup. The dominant pitcher of the last decade is unrecognizable.
Halladay spoke for 15 minutes afterward as his catharsis. He cannot command a baseball. He is not injured or upset with his pitching mechanics. He estimated "95 percent" of his issues stem from mental pressure.
He told an anecdote from his mentor, the psychologist Harvey Dorfman. If you're trying to catch a bird, Dorfman said, you flail when you attempt to grab it.
"You have to hold your hands out and let it land in your hands," Halladay said. "It's the same way with pitching."
He failed to retire a batter in the fifth inning. He allowed seven runs on six hits. He walked three, hit another, and tossed a wild pitch. He needed nine pitches to induce a flyout by the opposing pitcher.
Halladay is the epitome of a beaten Phillies pitching staff through seven games. They have allowed 48 earned runs, and only the 1960 Phillies allowed more (49) in the last 100 years. This team's ERA is 7.08 and its record is 2-5.
It is early, but apathy has extended to the seats. The announced attendance Monday was 35,393, the smallest crowd since April 22, 2009. Many departed before a pitch was thrown in the seventh inning. Earlier in the day, the team e-mailed to fans a buy-one-get-one-free ticket offer for Tuesday's game.
The Phillies have no choice but to hand Halladay the ball every fifth day and pray for improvement. Halladay, 35, earned that right. The team is paying him $20 million.
"He's giving you everything he's got," manager Charlie Manuel said. "When you see somebody who works as hard as he does and gives you everything he's got, that's tough to watch, because I pull for him."
Waiting for the bird to land in Halladay's hands is harder when everyone is watching.
"It's tough," the pitcher said. "It's tough because you care about the game, you care about your teammates, you care about the fans, you care about the organization. You want it badly."
He threw first-pitch strikes to 11 of 22 Mets. He could not rely on his fastball once he fell behind those batters. When he did, Mets catcher John Buck mashed a 90-m.p.h. cutter deep into the right-field seats for a three-run blast.
Halladay's inability to pitch deep again pressed Chad Durbin into action. Durbin allowed two inherited runners to score, making 12 of 13 that have scored against Phillies relievers.
Matt Harvey, Halladay's 24-year-old counterpart, overwhelmed Phillies batters. He struck out nine in seven innings while allowing a run on three hits. When Manuel was asked to describe Harvey before the game, the first word from his mouth was "power."
Baseball people once said that about Halladay. At his best, Halladay overpowered the opposition not with velocity, but with an unrelenting desire to throw strikes. He is not that pitcher any longer.
Play for Pay
Phillies "ace" Cole Hamels is 0-2 with a 10.97 ERA after two dismal performances.
Since major-league players are paid on a 180-day scale and the season is nine days old, Hamels has been paid $975,000 of his $19.5 million salary
That works out to:
$487,500 for each loss.
$60,938 for each hit allowed.
$75,000 for each earned run allowed.
$243,750 for each home run allowed.
Contact Matt Gelb at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @magelb.