ATLANTA Just when you started feeling good about the Phillies, this happens.
Not the loss. Not the Jimmy Rollins error. Not the poor performance by the bullpen.
But this doesnt: Roy Halladay doesnt blow six-run leads. He locks them down and turns them into wins that will someday appear on a bronze plaque in Cooperstown.
Halladay didnt lock anything down Wednesday night. He shockingly could not hold a six-run lead and was long gone before the game turned into a back-and-forth battle royal with the Atlanta Braves ultimately winning, 15-13, on Chipper Jones two-run blast into the night in the bottom of the 11th inning (see Salisbury's Instant Replay).
Halladay allowed 12 hits and eight runs in 5 13 innings. Six of those runs came in the fifth when, after breezing through the first four innings, he simply lost it.
The righthander threw 34 pitches in that inning and allowed five singles and a grand slam to Brian McCann.
At one point in the inning, pitching coach Rich Dubee made a trip to the mound that appeared to be designed to give Halladay a breather. Thats how spent he looked in the inning. His face was red and he was sweating profusely on what was a warm 87 degrees at game time but hardly oppressive Georgia night. The whole scene the red face, the sweating, the almost constant wiping of the brow was reminiscent, but not nearly as severe as that night last July when Halladays eyes rolled into the back of his head at Wrigley Field and he had to leave the mound with heat exhaustion.
In the days that followed that game, word came out that Halladay had been under the weather in the days before that start.
I was good, honestly, he said.
After the fifth inning, Halladay sat alone in the dugout and mopped his brow. He said he spoke to neither manager Charlie Manuel nor Dubee and went back out for the sixth inning. It didnt go well. He allowed three quick hits and the Braves scored two more runs to go ahead, 8-6.
Total pitch count was not a problem for Halladay. He was at 82 entering the sixth, but that was after 34 arduous pitches in the fifth.
He had some left, Manuel said. We still thought he could pitch an inning or two and get us to where we wanted to go.
After Halladay lost the lead, the Phils got it back and built on it thanks to Carlos Ruiz six RBIs in the seventh (three-run homer) and eighth (three-run double) innings. Ruiz double in the eighth gave the Phils a 12-8 lead which Jose Contreras and Michael Schwimer could not hold. Manuel used Contreras and Schwimer instead of eighth-inning man Chad Qualls because he was trying to stay away from Qualls, who had pitched in three of the previous four games. Jonathan Papelbon was only coming in for a three-out save, Manuel added.
The eighth inning might have gone differently had Rollins not made an error on a potential double-play ball with no outs.
Easy double play, Rollins said. I thought it was. For me.
Even after the Braves five-run eighth, the Phils tied the game at 13-13 on Shane Victorinos RBI single with two outs in the ninth. Jones game-winning homer in the 11th came off Brian Sanches, who was into his third inning of work and sticking around for the long haul.
The loss deprived Ruiz of a night in the spotlight. The beloved catcher picked up his struggling batterymate with a seven-RBI night.
Hes been awesome for us, Halladay said. Thats what hurts most. My teammates are out there grinding it out, getting it done, and I let them down.
Questions about Halladay have swirled since spring training. His velocity is down a notch or two thats documented and his command hadnt been Halladay-esque in his previous couple of starts. Wednesday nights outing in which his ERA rose from 1.95 to 3.40 -- will only fuel more questions.
I wish I had a better reason, but I dont, he said, speaking specifically about Wednesday nights outing. It was just a lack of execution on pitches in key situations and it cost me.
Halladay was showered and dressed as he spoke to reporters after the game. Thats unusual for him, but it was a four-hour game and he had been out for some time. His face was still red in spots and his eyes appeared sad. When he was done speaking with reporters, he grabbed a leather computer bag and a small rolling suitcase and headed for the door.
This was a night best left in the rearview mirror.