MIAMI -- As difficult as things have been for Roy Halladay, what with the injuries, the ineffectiveness and the lack of confidence, he has never lost sight of the singular obsession that brought him to Philadelphia and continues to drive him even as his fastball has shifted out of the express lane.
That’s why Halladay wasn’t about to get all that giddy about winning his 200th game Sunday afternoon.
“I want to win a World Series and that’s why I’m here, that’s why I play,” the subdued and serious right-hander said after pitching eight innings of one-run ball in a 2-1 win over the Miami Marlins (see Instant Replay).
“The personal milestones are great. My sons, my wife, my family -- they’re all excited about it, but for me the goal is to get to the playoffs and win a World Series. When that happens I’m going to go in the back room and yell.”
Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins presented Halladay with a personalized magnum of champagne moments after the victory. Laynce Nix might have deserved one, too. His pinch-hit home run in the top of the ninth inning off Jon Rauch broke a 1-1 tie and put Halladay in the winner’s circle.
“It was really cool for me to be part of that,” Nix said of Halladay’s 200th.
Halladay was out of the game and already up in the clubhouse doing his postgame workout when Nix took Rauch into the second deck above right field.
“I didn’t want to screw anything up by staying in the dugout,” Halladay said. “It’s a great feeling to come out of a game and have somebody step up for you like that and be able to get a win out of it.”
When Halladay came to Philadelphia before the 2010 season, he was regarded as the best pitcher in baseball. He won 40 games and finished first and second in the NL Cy Young balloting his first two seasons in Philly before injury, wear and tear and ineffectiveness caught up with him last year and again this spring training.
He opened the season with two alarming losses in which he lasted a total of 7 1/3 innings and gave up 12 runs. Halladay ran high pitch counts early in both games and failed to get an out in the fifth inning in either one. Whispers of Halladay’s demise began to get louder.
Sunday’s effort should lower the volume.
There’s no hiding from the fact that Halladay’s eight innings of one-run ball came against a stripped-down team full of retreads and young players and minus its best talent, slugger Mike Stanton. How bad are the Marlins? How does 20 runs in 12 games sound? Halladay acknowledged that the Marlins were not the ’27 Yankees, but he still came away encouraged. He got ahead in more counts, especially after the third inning, kept his pitch count in check (87) and threw with more confidence, even if his stuff –- his fastball was 88 to 90 mph and he had just two strikeouts -- wasn’t nearly as electric as it was in his prime.
“The biggest thing was being able to throw strikes early in counts, mix pitches, and throw all my pitches for strikes,” Halladay said. “That’s something I hadn’t done against the two other teams.
“You’re right, [the Marlins] haven’t scored as many runs and Stanton wasn’t in there. Offensively they haven’t been as good. But I feel like if I can continue to make pitches confidently, and make them early in the count, I can be successful.”
Manager Charlie Manuel said Halladay continues “to get better a little at a time.” Manuel wouldn’t play the Marlins-are-terrible card.
“I don’t want to talk about the Marlins,” he said after the game. “They can beat you. They beat us yesterday, didn’t they? What the heck. They’ll beat some people that you don’t think they can beat.”
They might have beaten the Phillies for a second day in a row Sunday hadn’t it been for Nix’s heroics. The Phillies’ offense was bad in the series. Not Marlins bad, but pretty darn bad. They were 6 for 30 with runners in scoring position in the series and stranded 27 runners while scoring just six runs in three games. On Sunday, they hit into three double plays en route to leaving 10 runners on base.
Lack of offense can put pressure on a pitcher. Halladay had already been putting tremendous pressure on himself. (You could see it in his clenched face.) But in this game, he said he redirected his focus on one thing: Making the pitch. He said he stopped stressing about everything else.
“There’s a lot of things you can’t control and for some reason I felt like I had to control those things,” Halladay said. “I’ve never been that way. For some reason, coming in (to the season) I felt I had to prove that I was healthy and prove that I was effective. There was a lot of things I had no control over that were getting in the way of going out and making pitches.
“Today was all about simplifying and doing my job and making pitches. To see those things work and come together gives you confidence and let’s you know this is the right way to go about it. This is what I’ve always done and this is what I need to get back to. I think that’s something I can carry over.”
Will it carry over?
Tune in Friday night when Halladay is scheduled to face the Cardinals at home.