CLEVELAND – Despite allowing just one hit on one run in six innings in Philadelphia six nights earlier, Roy Halladay fell behind each of the first four batters of the game. He struggled with command, but was able to mask it by executing pitches and getting timely swings from the Pittsburgh Pirates.
With all of his impressive accomplishments over the course of his celebrated career, Halladay has had a history of skittish starts. Entering play on Tuesday, opponents had hit .276 against him with a .321 OBP in the first inning of his starts.
Halladay had walked more batters in the first inning (96) than in any other inning over the course of his career.
Even though he turns 36 this month, Halladay is constantly trying to improve his game. He admitted to the problems last week and said he planned on addressing them by intensifying the end of his pregame bullpen sessions.
If he did so before Tuesday’s start at Progressive Field, it didn’t work.
After bouncing back from a worrisome start to the 2013 season with three strong starts in a row, Halladay sunk back into his funk in an ugly 14-2 defeat to the Cleveland Indians.
Halladay’s troubles began in the first inning, when he gave up four, two-outs runs on a pair of two-run home runs. Halladay needed 32 pitches to get out of the first inning and was gone before completing four innings for the second time in six starts this season.
Halladay, who entered the night with the third best career ERA (3.32) among active pitchers with at least 1,500 innings, has a 4.01 ERA in the first inning in 16 seasons.
Halladay allowed eight runs in nine hits in 3 2/3 innings. Three of those hits were two-run home runs.
After sweeping the Mets in a three-game series in Flushing, N.Y., this weekend, the Phils arrived to Cleveland for the first time in six years and were down 8-1 when Manuel came out to get Halladay with two outs in the bottom of the fourth. Cleveland, from the Phillies perspective, certainly does not rock.
The Indians seemed to enjoy themselves, however. With Manuel back in town, the Tribe’s lineup probably reminded their old manager and hitting coach of their All-Star laden lineups of the mid-90s: Cleveland clobbered 16 hits.
The Indians mashed seven home runs. The first five were of the two-run variety.
Six players in the Cleveland lineup homered and eight-hole hitter Ryan Raburn had two home runs.
It was just the fourth time since 1916 that the Phillies had allowed seven home runs in a game and the first time since 2005, when Vicente Padilla served up five to the Mets at Citizens Bank Park.
By the time the Indians came to bat in the sixth, they were up 12-1 and Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins found spots next to Halladay on the bench. With the game out of reach, Kevin Frandsen and Freddy Galvis replaced the veteran infielders.
The lopsided final score began and ended with Halladay, however. After going 2-0 with a 1.71 ERA in his previous three starts, Halladay evened out his uneven first month of the season with his third clunker of 2013.
The two-time Cy Young Award winner has a 6.75 ERA in six starts this season.
The Phils are fresh off a sweep of the New York Mets. And now they have all of their projected regulars ready to hit in the lineup for the first time together on Tuesday night in Cleveland.
Here is how Charlie Manuel drew out tonight's lineup:
1. Jimmy Rollins, SS
2. Michael Young, 3B
3. Chase Utley, 2B
4. Ryan Howard, 1B
5. Delmon Young, DH
6. Domonic Brown, LF
7. Carlos Ruiz, C
8. John Mayberry Jr., RF
9. Ben Revere, CF
(Roy Halladay is pitching).
I wonder why Carlos Ruiz (who's hit .303 with a .388 OBP in the last three years) is hitting that low. I'd hit him five or possibly even three, splitting Howard and Utley.
But Charlie Manuel has spent some 50 years in baseball (read: a lot more than me) so here's his take:
"I wanted to make to put a right-handed hitter behind Howard. I got Utley hitting third and Howard fourth and Delmon Young fifth and Brown sixth and Chooch seventh. Kind of see if we ould get some balance down at the bottom of my lineup."
And this isn't exactly a permanent order, either.
"I'll mess around with it some and see what I think is best," Manuel said.
He also said he'd likely start Delmon Young in right field on Wednesday, before the Phils return home for a four-game series at Citizens Bank Park. Young hasn't played a major league game in right field since Sept. 29, 2007.
Young was used primarily as a DH last season. Manuel said he'd likely use a defensive replacement for Young late in games (think Eric Bruntlett for Pat Burrell).
Young has been playing right field during the last month at extended spring training and then in rehab assignments with Class A Clearwater and Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
"I felt fine down there," Young said of playing right. "I just have to get used to each level. ... It was a little different shagging today with the third deck. These baseballs have a little more juice in them than the minor league ball and the players hit the ball with more juice, so it’s getting used to better competition and better hitters and the ball having a little more carry on it."