The good news: The Phillies offense showed signs of life against an excellent pitcher.
The bad news: Roy Halladay is human. Especially against the San Francisco Giants.
Tagged with the loss after allowing all the runs in last night’s 4-3 Game 1 loss in the National League Championship Series, Halladay is now 0-3 in four starts against San Francisco, with an earned run average of just under seven runs per game.
"I never expected it to be easy," Halladay said afterwards. "If you can’t handle failure at this point you’re in the wrong business."
The anticipated duel between last year’s Cy Young Award winner and the likely winner this year fizzled quickly via long pitch counts. Neither ace appeared to have the command that punctuated their first forays into the postseason last week, but home plate umpire Derryl Cousins tight strike zone had something to do with that.
Halladay flinched first, surrendering a no-doubt home run to Cody Ross with one out in the third inning. Halladay struck out Lincecum and Torres to end the inning, but the immediate thought was: Would this be enough?
Carlos Ruiz answered that on Lincecum’s second pitch in the bottom of the third, punching a high outside fastball over the rightfield wall to tie the score at 1.
Lincecum spent the rest of the inning battling his control and glaring at Cousins, necessitating a trip to the mound by Giants manager Bruce Bochy after Lincecum fell behind Ryan Howard with two runners in scoring position.
"I could see that he was showing a little frustration," said Bochy. "I just wanted to calm him down. And I mean, he's really hyped up a little bit in this big game. And he was in a jam there. So I just wanted to make sure he calmed down and kept his poise out there and came back, made some good pitches there on Howard. But I could see a little frustration on his part. That's why I went out there."
It was the most pivotal at-bat of the game. After Ruiz’s home run tied the game, Placido Polanco hit a 2-0 pitch for a double into the leftfield corner and Chase Utley walked. Lincecum fell behind Howard 2-0, who had doubled against Lincecum in the first inning hitting the ball to the opposite field.
This time he swung hard at three consecutive pitches out of the strike zone to end the threat. One of those pitches missed the target so badly that it sailed past catcher Buster Posey, moving both runners into scoring position. Regardless, the Giants kept the shift on, providing a huge hole on the left to punch a ball through.
The Phillies had four extra base hits in three games against the Reds. They had three extra-base hits in the first three innings last night, but just two singles from that point on.
And for the third game in a row, they could not muster consecutive hits.
"I’m concerned,’’ said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. "We need to hit better."
Cousins strike zone played big in the Giants sixth, when they rallied for three runs with two outs and no one on. With Buster Posey on first, Halladay thought he struck out Burrell on a 1-2 cutter. "Yeah, I did," he said. "But there were calls they wanted too. If you don’t make a pitch, you have to make the next one."
Instead Burrell ripped the following pitch for a double, the ball glancing off Raul Ibanez’s glove at the base of the wall. Uncharacteristically irked, Halladay had words with Cousins after backing up the play. He then surrendered an RBi single up the middle to Juan Uribe and the Giants led 4-1.
Jayson Werth recovered two runs in the bottom of the sixth, launching a 2-2 fastball over the rightfield wall with Chase Utley aboard to make it 4-3.
It stayed that way the rest of the way, although not without drama and missed opportunities.
With a lineup full of other team’s castoffs, the Giants finished well behind the Cincinnati Reds in virtually every important offensive category this season. But they are a team of hackers, and against Halladay, on a night when the strike zone for both he and Giants ace Tim Lincecum shrunk considerably from their first postseason starts, it was a perfect formula.
Halladay lost for the first time since Aug. 30. "You’re always surprised when Roy gets hit," said Brad Lidge. "It’s once in a blue moon."
"But I’m excited to see him pitch the next time out."