Monday, May 30, 2011
Posted: 4:22 p.m. Updated: 6:43 p.m.
By Jim Salisbury
WASHINGTON How hot was it Monday afternoon at Nationals Park?
Well, the game time temperature just after 1 p.m. was 92 degrees, and the humidity was oppressive.
By the middle of the game, it was 95 with a heat index of 99, according the Washington Nationals media relations staff.
Roy Halladay had no trouble believing that. In the top of the fifth inning he retreated to clubhouse where he hurriedly changed his entire sweat-soaked uniform right down to the socks.
Good thing we had a pretty long half-inning, the Phillies ace said. Everything was soaked.
As tempting as it was to stay in the air-conditioned clubhouse, Halladay, wearing a new uniform, made it out in time for the bottom of the fifth inning. He was still in the game when teammates Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez drove in the tying and go-ahead runs in the top of the seventh, and he came up huge in the field and on the mound in the bottom of that inning.
When it was time to go to the clubhouse for good, the Phillies had a 5-4 victory and Halladay had his seventh, and possibly most arduous, win of the season.
It was a grind, the parched pitcher admitted afterward.
The 34-year-old righthander chugged water, Gatorade and Pedialyte between innings as he battled to stay hydrated. He may have done his best work in the bottom of the seventh. Pitching with a one-run lead, he knocked down a hard-hit comebacker from Rick Ankiel and helped cut down the potential tying run at the plate. He then got the final two outs of the inning with two men on base. For his final out, he pumped a high fastball by Jayson Werth. The strikeout came on Halladays 111th pitch and it elicited a huge roar from the pro-Phillies crowd. In a rare show of emotion, Halladay punched his glove after the strikeout and walked from the mound, in search of some air conditioning.
Afterward, Halladay was asked if his intense training regimen helped him get through the game.
I dont know what helps when its that hot, he said with a laugh. I hope so. I was fortunate that the offense picked me. The strikeout on Werth was a nice way to end it, for sure.
Even as the first two men in the seventh reached base, manager Charlie Manuel wasnt taking his ace out.
He was there all the way, Manuel said. Thats who he is. He wants to be there. Thats what a No. 1 does.
Manuel stacked three straight left-handed bats Chase Utley, Howard and Ibanez in the middle of his order even though the Nats have a couple lefty relievers. The move paid dividends against lefty Sean Burnett when Howard singled in the tying run in the seventh and Ibanez followed with a sacrifice fly. Placido Polanco and Utley had gotten on base in front of Howard.
The two-run rally was a pick-me-up for Halladay, who allowed three solo homers, including one that put the Nats up, 4-3 in the sixth. Halladay deserved the bailout. Hes bailed out the Phillies offense enough.
The victory improved the Phillies to 34-20, the best mark in baseball. They are 10-5 in one-run games. All three of their wins on this roadtrip have come after rallies in the late innings.
Ive been on teams where you waited for something to go wrong in a close game, Halladay said. This team expects to win close games. Its just the mindset that has been engrained here. It was here before I got here.
Memorial Day is typically a time when a baseball team takes stock of itself. The Phillies like where they are. How could they not?
Weve got Utley back and were close to being healthy, Manuel said. When we get Shane Victorino back, we should be 100 percent. Our offense has picked up. The pitching has been there all year. We could get on a roll if we play good baseball. But its up to us. Weve got to make it happen.E-mail Jim Salisbury at firstname.lastname@example.org
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