Halladay wins possible last home game as Phillie

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Halladay wins possible last home game as Phillie

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Roy Halladay was two months into his tenure with the Phillies when he pitched a perfect game against the Florida Marlins on a warm Miami night in May 2010.

The image of the triumphant pitcher raising his arms as Juan Castro threw across the diamond to Ryan Howard for the final out is still fresh in the mind.

It was difficult not to reflect on Halladay’s perfect game Tuesday night. Three-and-a-half seasons after that exhilarating moment, Halladay found himself facing the Marlins once again, only this time at Citizens Bank Park.

Times change. Back in May 2010, Halladay was just beginning his time with the Phillies. He is older now. Injuries have taken a toll on his fastball. The euphoria of the perfect game has been replaced with the uneasiness of an uncertain future.

And so, there was a very real possibility that Halladay made his final start in home whites for the Phillies on Tuesday night. At least he came away with the win in the Phils’ 6-4 victory (see Instant Replay).

Robotic to the end, Halladay said he felt no pangs of nostalgia as he walked off the mound after holding the young Marlins to four hits and a run over six innings.

“Honestly, I did not think about that,” he said. “It’s not out of lack of respect for the fans or anything like that. I just didn’t think about it. I don’t let myself look that far ahead.”

The fans didn’t think about it that much, either. The announced crowd was 28,872, the second smallest of the season.

Halladay, of course, will be a free agent this offseason. He has struggled since coming back from shoulder surgery in late August. The darting fastball that used to carve up hitters has lost its bite and is less menacing. The void has been filled by a heavy reliance on off-speed stuff, trickery out of the Jamie Moyer handbook. Halladay would like return to the Phillies next season. It’s unclear whether management will offer him the opportunity. He will be 37 in May. There are questions about how much he has left in the tank.

“Unfortunately, that’s out of my control,” Halladay said. “So I’m going to continue to play as hard as I can for the organization and my teammates and hopefully I have a chance to pitch again.

“But I can’t worry about things that are out of my control.”

Chase Utley, another aging player who has had his share of injuries, received a contract extension last month.

He hopes Halladay gets one.

“It did not dawn on me,” Utley said of the possibility that this was Halladay’s last start in home whites in Philadelphia. “I hope that’s not the case.

“He’s improving. Coming off surgery with a new arm slot, it’s something that he has to get used to. It seems like his command is getting better. I’m a true believer that the more reps and the more comfortable he gets with that new arm slot, the stronger he’ll get.”

Halladay did not face a world-beating lineup Tuesday night. The Marlins are young -- four of their nine starters were rookies -- and their offense is terrible. They rank last in the NL in runs per game (3.21), batting average (.231) and OPS (.627).

Giancarlo Stanton -- a.k.a. Ruben Amaro Jr.’s obsession -- is the only real threat in the Marlins’ lineup. Halladay got him to pop out on a changeup with two men on base to end an uprising in the fifth.

This has become Halladay’s style of pitching -- finesse, lots of off-speed stuff. His best fastball was just 88 mph Tuesday night.

Manager Ryne Sandberg was asked if he believed Halladay would continue with this style.

“For the rest of September I do,” he said. “His stuff has pretty much stayed the same.”

And beyond September?

“I don’t know. That’s the unknown,” Sandberg said. “You would think that getting these innings under his belt, these games, being healthy, are good signs. It’s hard to tell, but with a normal offseason throwing program, I’d be optimistic that he could gain some velocity.”

Halladay, who walked five batters in each of his previous two starts, said he tried to be more aggressive in this game. He was able to do that thanks in part to run support. Battery mate Carlos Ruiz drove in two runs in the third inning and Utley smacked a three-run homer in the fifth. The defense was also strong behind Halladay.

Getting back on a mound less than four months after surgery is a courageous move, but Halladay is not being evaluated on courage. If he were, the Phillies would offer him a five-year extension today. The team had a gaggle of front office types -- from Amaro to Pat Gillick, Dallas Green, Marti Wolever and Charley Kerfeld -- at Tuesday night’s game. Using cold, clinical evaluation, Amaro and his team of advisers must decide whether Halladay can still consistently get major-league hitters out.

They will have two more looks at the pitcher next week, but those starts will come on the road.

The home portion of Halladay’s season is over and it’s fair to wonder if he has thrown his last pitch in Phillies’ home whites.

United States blanks Puerto Rico to win its first World Baseball Classic

United States blanks Puerto Rico to win its first World Baseball Classic

LOS ANGELES -- The eagle has landed on top.

The United States routed Puerto Rico 8-0 to win its first World Baseball Classic in four tries on Wednesday night behind six hitless innings from Marcus Stroman.

The Americans planted their eagle statue mascot on the mound in celebration, a blue cap jauntily hanging from one of its large wings.

"It's a different feeling when the USA is on your chest," first baseman Eric Hosmer said. "We wanted to get the U.S. back on top of the baseball world, and we did that."

For a sport known as America's pastime, the U.S. had struggled since the WBC began in 2006. Twice, the Americans lost in the second round and they went out in the semifinals in 2009.

This time was different.

"These guys were here to do their best," Team USA general manager Joe Torre said. "The thing I marveled at was how quickly they came together, and Jimmy (Leyland) deserves a lot of that credit. They're just a great group who understood what this event is all about."

Accepting the gleaming silver trophy from baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred, Leyland told the crowd, "This is for the men and women who serve our country."

After the final out, the Americans massed on the mound, hugging and high-fiving while fireworks exploded in center field. Some of them grabbed a U.S. flag and circled the warning track, waving it in celebration with fans in the stands.

Puerto Rico's fans saluted their team with a standing ovation and the players responded by clapping.

Puerto Rico lost for the first time in eight games after outscoring the opposition 55-26. The U.S. territory finished runner-up for the second time, having lost to the Dominican Republic in the 2013 final.

Tournament MVP Stroman avenged his shakiness in the Americans' 6-5 loss to Puerto Rico during pool play. The right-hander from the Toronto Blue Jays gave up one hit in six-plus innings, struck out three and walked one on 73 pitches.

He allowed just three balls past the infield until Angel Pagan's double in the left-field corner leading off the seventh, when Stroman departed to a standing ovation, having staked the Americans to a 7-0 lead with the help of Ian Kinsler's two-run homer.

Stroman walked Carlos Beltran leading off the second, but the defense helped him out. Yadier Molina hit the ball to shortstop Brandon Crawford, who started a double play before Stroman struck out Javier Baez to end the inning.

The U.S. pounded out 13 hits and finished with a 6-2 record while making the final for the first time in front of 51,565 at Dodger Stadium.

Kinsler homered off an 0-1 pitch from Seth Lugo into left-center field in the third, scoring Jonathan Lucroy, who singled leading off.

Lugo of the New York Mets allowed four runs and five hits, struck out seven and walked four in four innings. The right-hander won his first two starts of the tournament, including in the second round against Stroman and the U.S.

Stroman gave up six consecutive singles in a four-run first inning and took the loss against Puerto Rico last Friday in San Diego.

The Americans made it 4-0 in the fifth on RBI singles by Christian Yelich and Andrew McCutchen.

Fans wore flags of both countries as capes and decorated their faces in team colors. Puerto Rico boosters pounded cowbells, tooted horns and blew whistles early on before their team fell behind 4-0.

Fans were on their feet chanting "U-S-A" when the Americans loaded the bases in the seventh with two outs. They were rewarded with Crawford's two-run single that chased J.C. Romero, extending the lead to 6-0.

The U.S. tacked on another run on Giancarlo Stanton's RBI single off Hiram Burgos past diving shortstop Francisco Lindor.

The Americans defeated two-time champion Japan, while Puerto Rico beat the Netherlands to reach the final.

The three games at Dodger Stadium drew 109,892.

Dallas Green did it his way -- driving the Phillies mad, but to the top

Dallas Green did it his way -- driving the Phillies mad, but to the top

Whenever I think of Dallas Green, I think of that night. It was Oct. 21, 1980, the night the Phillies won their first World Series. Green was the manager, the old-school baseball lifer who dragged the Phillies through that summer like a father tugging a whining toddler to the dentist's office. He called them out and cussed them out and challenged them to be the best team in baseball.

On this South Philadelphia night, they finally were. They beat the Kansas City Royals, 4-1, to close out the series, four games to two.

Green was standing in his Veterans Stadium office, his head tilted to one side, his eyes closed, the phone pressed against his ear. He had one hand on the World Series trophy, the other on a freshly opened bottle of Great Western champagne. Flashbulbs were popping all around him. His wife Sylvia and their four children were wiping away tears. Suddenly, the manager's weary eyes snapped to attention.

"Thank you, Mr. President," Green said hearing the voice of Jimmy Carter calling from the White House. "Yes, we're all thrilled. The City of Philadelphia has waited a long time for this moment and we're all enjoying it. There were a lot of people who said we couldn't do it but I think we proved ourselves in this series. We played our hearts out to win this thing."

Green's conversation with the President lasted just a few minutes then he excused himself to rejoin the celebration in the clubhouse. He hugged general manager Paul Owens then went from locker to locker embracing each player, even the ones he feuded with during the season. The sweet taste of autumn champagne washed away the bruised feelings of summer.

"Along the way, I made a few guys unhappy," Green said. "I probably made a few guys miserable. But it was all for a reason."

He nodded toward the celebration.

"This is the reason," he said.

Green drove the Phillies that season, lashing them with his bullwhip tongue, benching veterans for rookies down the stretch, ignoring the grumbling and dirty looks. When Green said, "We're going to do this thing my way," he meant it. Many of the players who were used to the gentle hand of the previous manager Danny Ozark resented Green and made no attempt to hide it. In September they still were sniping at each other. Then, somehow, it all came together.

It was as if the team -- which had fallen short in other years and underachieved in the postseason -- won it all that year just so it could have the satisfaction of throwing that World Series confetti in its manager's face. If that's what it took -- and believe me, that was part of it -- it was fine with Green.

"I'm proud of all these guys, every one of them," Green said that night. "I'm including guys like Larry Bowa and Garry Maddox, guys I had my differences with during the season. When we needed them down the stretch, they busted their butts for this team. I told them in spring training we had the talent to go all the way. I said, 'Hey, we've got the personnel to win this thing but we're gonna do it my way.' There were some doubters in the group, there were those who resisted, but look where we are now."

To get some idea of what that season was like, picture this scene: It is Sunday, Aug. 11, a sweltering hot day in Pittsburgh. The Phillies have just lost the first game of a doubleheader, 7-1, to the Pirates. Green orders the clubhouse doors locked so the reporters are standing in the hallway. The manager launches into a profane rant that is so loud we can hear every word.

"You guys have got to stop being so (expletive) cool," Green bellowed. "Get that through your (expletive) heads. Get the (expletive) off your asses. You're a good (expletive) baseball team but you're not now and you can't look in the (expletive) mirror and tell me that you are. You tell me you can do it but you (expletive) give up.

"If you don't want to (expletive) play, come in my office and (expletive) tell me because I don't want to (expletive) play you."

When the clubhouse door opened, the reporters tiptoed in expecting to find the walls scorched and furniture broken. Instead, Green was sitting behind his desk, his jaw clenched but his voice calm.

"I'm not gonna let these guys quit on themselves," he said. "If I have to yell at them to get them going, I'll yell good and loud. I may not be doing this (leading the club) the right way but I'm doing it the only way I know how."

The Phillies went on to Chicago where they won two of three from the Cubs then to New York where they swept the Mets. The Phils rolled to the Eastern Division title then defeated Houston in a dramatic National League Championship Series and put away the Royals to claim their first world championship. The players had Big D's voice ringing in their ears every step of the way.

The night they won it, the night they finally reached the top of the mountain, Dallas Green enjoyed it more than anyone else. He grew up in Delaware, he was like family to the Carpenters who owned the team. He was a pitcher on the Phillies team that folded down the stretch in 1964. He carried those scars into a career in the front office and finally the dugout. Then came 1980 and the wild ride to the top.

"I know the players are happy and I'm happy as hell for them," Green said leaning against the clubhouse wall. "But they can't appreciate this the way I can. I've been a Phillie forever. I made a stop at every level in the organization: player, coach, manager, farm director. I have a feel for what this (win) means for all the people behind the scenes like the secretaries and the front office staff. I know how they feel right now.

"What do I feel? I feel drained. I feel as if I've given everything I've got to give. But, goddam, it feels good to be on top."