There was no question about it. The ballgame was Roy Halladays.
Even after he gave up two singles to start the ninth inning. Even with Antonio Bastardo and Ryan Madson in the bullpen warming up. Even after Lyle Overbay smacked a two-run double, it was Halladays to win or lose.
Thats the confidence Charlie Manuel showed in his veteran ace and reigning Cy Young winner. Unfortunately for the Phils, Overbays two-run double was the difference in their 3-2 loss to the Diamondbacks on Tuesday night.
Of course, the first question Manuel fielded following the game was about his decision to leave Halladay in to pitch.
Kind of his game isnt it? Manuel said. Hes my ace. Thats the way I look at it. If I was going to make a move, Id have made it to start the inning.
Tuesday nights game was a potential NLDS preview for the Phils and so far the Diamondbacks have had their number this season, winning three of the four matchups between the clubs.
The strange thing about the collapse in the ninth inning is that Halladay had cruised and showed no signs of letdown. Before the ninth began, he had retired the previous 12 batters.
He was sitting right there in a good spot, Manuel said. We had those guys throwing, but at the same time there was no discussion. That was his game.
Halladay didnt just pitch well against the Diamondbacks, he was making them swing and miss. He struck out 14 and tied his career-high for strikeouts. It was the 14th double-digit strikeout game of his career and the third this season.
In the eighth inning, Halladay even struck out the side in order.
Tuesdays loss snapped a streak of 10 straight wins in home starts made by Halladay and it was only his second loss at home this season.
The Phillies ace has given up leads before but its still out of character for the reigning Cy Young winner to give up a lead so late in a game. When the ballgame is on the line, Halladay wants the ball.
Its never so much the inning, Halladay said. Its happened to me before in the sixth. I never look at it that way. The tough part is that you feel like you're making good pitches.
Halladay said he was well-rested after Sundays rainout and Mondays off day and threw 122 pitches, 89 of which were strikes. He walked only one an intentional pass in the ninth.
While Halladay (15-5) gave up the game in the last inning, the Phillies had plenty of chances to give him more insurance before that point. The only runs they scored came from a Shane Victorino line-drive home run in the fifth inning.
In fact, one of the few Phils with any luck with Diamondbacks starter Josh Collmenter was Halladay, who went 2 for 3 with his first-career extra-base hit a double in the seventh. Chase Utley, for the fourth time, tied his season high with three hits.
In the third inning, newest Phillie and fan-favorite Hunter Pence had an opportunity to give the club what would have been its first lead of the night. With the bases loaded and with two outs and the crowd on its feet, Pence had a battle with Collmenter.
After an 11-pitch at-bat, Pence went down swinging. He struck out three times on the night.
I wasnt really getting the best swings off his delivery, Pence said. We had a lot of opportunities and we just didnt get the big hit. Doc was really hitting him pretty good.
Pence also noted that Doc pitched pretty well too.
Doc pitched a great game and we just didnt get the big hit we needed, Pence said.
Halladay pitched well until he gave up that game-losing double in the ninth to Overbay, who went 3 for 5 and had his first multi-hit game with the Diamondbacks.
Thats going to happen sometimes. Thats baseball, Manuel said of Halladays late-inning loss. Thats how it goes. Theres never been a perfect pitcher; theres never been a perfect player.
Theres never been a perfect player? Dont tell that to Pence, who was quick to come to Halladays defense.
Oh, hes perfect, Pence said. We just didnt get the job done.
E-mail Dave Zangaro at email@example.com.