Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Posted: 9:50 p.m. Updated: 11:40 p.m.
By Jim Salisbury
MIAMI When two titans such as Roy Halladay and Josh Johnson are matched against each other on the pitchers mound, the game can often be decided by one of those little things that seem to matter so much in baseball.
It was that way when Halladay pitched his famous perfect game against the Florida Marlins last May. Johnson was the opposing pitcher. Halladay and the Phillies beat Johnson and the Marlins, 1-0, on the strength of an unearned run.
Eleven days later, Johnson beat Halladay and the Phillies, 2-0, in Philadelphia.
The latest meeting between these two pitching heavyweights was another tight contest Tuesday night. The Marlins won the game, 2-1, with the help of an unearned run in the eighth inning.
That was a tough way to lose a game, manager Charlie Manuel said afterward.
He was referring to a sloppy bottom half of the eighth inning that began with shortstop Jimmy Rollins making a costly error on a ground ball by Omar Infante. A wild pitch by Halladay and a bloop single to center by Chris Coghlan plated the go-ahead run with one out.
Coglan hit a 2-1 cutter. As it found the outfield grass, Halladay shouted a naughty word. It was an uncharacteristic show of emotion for the stoic pitcher, but it was that kind of night frustrating all the way. Halladay (5-2) pitched well enough to win. Heck, he had set down 13 in a row before Infante reached base. He simply did not get enough run support and the lack of offense magnified every little mistake that was made, from Rollins error to the wild pitch to a pair of walks that Halladay issued in the third inning.
Halladay entered the game allowing just 1.2 walks per nine innings, the best mark in the NL. In seven starts, hed walked just seven batters. But he temporarily lost his mark on the strike zone in the third inning. His first walk came against his opposite number, Johnson, on a full-count fastball. Halladay was not happy with himself for walking the pitcher. He then allowed a double to Coghlan and a sacrifice fly to Emilio Bonafacio as Florida tied the game at 1-1.
After the game, Halladay was still kicking himself for the walk to Johnson.
It definitely cost me, he said. Its frustrating. I wasnt thrilled with that.
Johnson entered the game with an ERA of 1.68, second-best in the NL. Earlier in the season, he took no-hitters into the seventh and eighth innings of games. Halladay said he didnt try to be any more careful because he was facing Johnson and runs figured to be at a premium.
You try to limit mistakes regardless of who youre facing, he said. Unfortunately, it turned out that little stuff did matter.
The little stuff included leaving the bases full against Johnson in the second and third innings. Ryan Howard led off the second with his eighth homer and the Phils proceeded to load the bases with no outs on a double by Raul Ibanez, a hit batsman and a walk. Johnson was clearly feeling for it the second and third innings, but he got out of trouble both times. In the second, he struck out Dane Sardinha and Halladay before getting Rollins on a ground ball to skirt danger.
We had chances early but we couldnt get a hit, Manuel said. Bases loaded, no outs. Youve got to get something across. Hit into a double play and youll score a run. But thats how it goes sometimes.
Rollins error in the eighth was another little thing. He wandered toward the hole for Infantes ball, bobbled it then threw wildly.
The bobble didnt matter, Rollins said. It was a bad throw. Ive got to make that throw. With a good throw, hes out.
It was the second time in a week that Rollins usually steady glove had betrayed the Phils. On Friday night, he failed to catch a two-out line drive it was ruled a hit but Rollins said he should have had it in the third inning. It paved the way for Atlanta to score three runs en route to a 5-0 win on a night when Cliff Lee struck out 16.
The common denominator in those two games: Good starting pitching and little run support. In games like that, the little things matter. The Phillies didnt do them on Tuesday night and have a loss to show for it.
E-mail Jim Salisbury at email@example.com