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.

Best of MLB: Royals storm back in 9th inning for win over Blue Jays

Best of MLB: Royals storm back in 9th inning for win over Blue Jays

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Whit Merrifield hit a two-run, two-out double that capped a four-run rally in the ninth inning, and the Kansas City Royals beat the Toronto Blue Jays 5-4 on Friday night to reach .500 for the first time since April.

With their 10th win in 12 games, the Royals improved to 36-36. They were 6-6 before play on April 20, then went on a nine-game losing streak that night and dropped as low as 10-20, seven games out of first place. They trail AL Central-leading Cleveland by three games.

Toronto took a 2-1 lead into the ninth and extended it when Josh Donaldson and Justin Smoak hit RBI singles off Joakim Soria (4-2) (see full recap).

Dodgers cruise past Rockies for 8th straight win
LOS ANGELES -- Yasiel Puig homered and left-hander Alex Wood kept his record perfect as the streaking Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the NL West rival Colorado Rockies 6-1 on Friday night for their eighth consecutive victory.

The Dodgers have won 14 of their last 15 games. They have scored at least six runs in seven consecutive games.

Wood (8-0) allowed one run in six innings. He gave up only three hits and walked two, retiring his last 10 batters.

The Dodgers have homered in 15 consecutive games, tied for fourth-longest streak in club history. The last time they managed it was in 1977. Their record is 24 consecutive games with a home run.

Rookie left-hander Kyle Freeman (8-4) allowed five runs and a career-high 10 hits and three walks in six innings (see full recap).

Torreyes hits walk-off single to lift Yanks over Rangers
NEW YORK -- Ronald Torreyes hit a game-winning single with two outs in the 10th inning after midnight, and the New York Yankees edged the Texas Rangers 2-1 on a rainy Friday night for just their second win in 10 games.

Brett Gardner lined a tying home run with one out in the New York ninth off closer Matt Bush. After Chasen Shreve (2-1) escaped a bases-loaded jam in the top of the 10th, Torreyes kept the Yankees atop the AL East.

Yu Darvish and Masahiro Tanaka kept it scoreless into the late innings in the first major league meeting between the Japanese stars (see full recap).

Mark Leiter Jr. picks up 1st big-league win as Phillies cool off Diamondbacks

Mark Leiter Jr. picks up 1st big-league win as Phillies cool off Diamondbacks

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PHOENIX -- The clubhouse was beginning to clear and still the star of the game had not yet emerged from the shower.

"He's in there cleaning the guacamole and mayo out of his hair," Cameron Rupp said with a laugh.

Eventually Mark Leiter Jr. made it out of the shower and over to his locker where equipment man Phil Sheridan presented him with three game balls, souvenirs from not only his first big-league start but his first big-league win, as well.

"It's something I'll never forget," the 26-year-old right-hander from Toms River, N.J., said pitching six shutout innings to backbone the Phillies' 6-1 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on Friday night (see Instant Replay).

"I’ll be honest, I was probably more excited for this than I was for my major-league debut. To go out there and contribute to a win is what I was hoping to do."

Leiter, a 22nd-round draft pick by the Phillies in 2013, had never made it onto the 40-man roster until the Phils needed a reliever in mid-April and gave him a shot after he'd gotten off to a good start at Triple A. He spent six weeks in the majors and made 12 relief appearances before being sent back to Triple A the first weekend of June.

Leiter worked as a starter during his time back at Triple A. He pitched six shutout innings against Syracuse in his last start and got the call to come back up when Jerad Eickhoff went on the disabled list with a back strain earlier this week.

Leiter's return assignment was not easy: The Diamondbacks are one of the best hitting clubs in the majors and the best on their home turf. They entered the game scoring 6.48 runs per game at home and with an .886 OPS, both major-league bests.

None of that fazed Leiter.

"In my opinion, this is the big leagues and it doesn’t matter who the lineup is," he said. "They all have the ability to hit and hit well. They’re all big-leaguers and they've earned their right to be big-leaguers. I was just trying to pitch to the team you're facing that day."

Leiter trusted his low-90s fastball and commanded it well. He mixed in his secondary stuff and kept the D-backs off-balance with his splitter. He scattered three hits, walked one and struck out five. He showed no fear.

"Great performance," manager Pete Mackanin said. "He made it look easy. He made a lot of good hitters look bad with his split. For him to come up and do that to a real good hitting team was outstanding."

Leiter's dad, Mark Sr., pitched for the Phillies in 1997 and 1998. He made the trip in from New Jersey to watch his son's first big-league start.

"I guess they found him on TV," Leiter said. "That's what they were telling me. I'm sure he wasn't too pleased they found him because he was probably stressed out. But I think it was probably worth him coming out here. He's probably happy."

How could he not be?

Leiter's teammates were definitely happy.

They treated Leiter to a raucous postgame dousing that included as many different condiments as could be found in the clubhouse dining room. One laughing player had a bottle of ketchup in his hands. Another had a squeeze bottle of honey.

And then there was the guacamole and mayo that Rupp mentioned.

"In his first major-league start, to come up here and do that in what is known as a good hitters’ park - that proves Mark is pretty strong between the ears," Tommy Joseph said. "He's been one of those under-the-radar guys that people have doubted, but his mentality and ability to prepare are second to none."

Joseph played a big role in the win, smacking a two-run homer in the ninth inning to give the Phillies some breathing room. Maikel Franco also had a big home run and Freddy Galvis contributed an important triple that led to a Phillies' run in the first inning.

The Phils still have the worst record in the majors at 24-48, but they've won two in a row, both on the back of good starting pitching performances. Aaron Nola pitched 7 1/3 innings of one-run ball on Thursday.

And Leiter delivered on Friday.

"It's good to see those back-to-back," Mackanin said.