04/21/10 11:32 PM ET
Dominating Doc blanks Braves on five hits
Phillies ace improves to 4-0; Ibanez, Werth each plate run
By Todd Zolecki / MLB.com
It could be Opening Day or a dog day in July. It could be a critical game in September or a random game in April. If he treated one game with more importance than the next, it would mean he had not exercised maximum effort, and a lack of focus or a lack of effort does not appear to be in his DNA.
Halladay watched the Phillies blow a three-run lead in the ninth inning Tuesday in a painful loss to the Braves at Turner Field, but he did not allow that finish to affect his preparation or performance Wednesday in a 2-0 victory.
He felt no extra pressure. He just pitched like normal, helping the Phillies snap a three-game losing streak.
Consider the Braves impressed.
"In my years here, there have been two guys that have commanded the strike zone like that, that I've actually faced," Braves third baseman Chipper Jones said. "Rocket [Roger Clemens] was the other one. What's not to be impressed about him? He's the real deal."
"Halladay is very, very good," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "What you saw tonight is basically what he does every start. You don't get many [scoring chances]. He's that good. He's really a machine."
Halladay certainly is machine-like in his performances. He wastes little time on the mound. He attacks hitters and wins.
"So far, he's been everything he's been billed up to be," Phils manager Charlie Manuel said.
He is 4-0 with a 0.82 ERA in his first four starts with Philadelphia. He is 6-0 with a 0.53 ERA in his past six starts, dating to last season with Toronto. That includes four complete games and three shutouts, allowing just three earned runs in 51 innings. He is 8-2 with a 1.21 ERA in his past 10 starts, including six complete games and shutouts against the Yankees, Red Sox, Mariners and Braves.
But Halladay had help Wednesday. Shane Victorino robbed Troy Glaus of a solo home run in the second, making a leaping catch at the center-field wall. Juan Castro made a nice play up the middle that had first baseman Ryan Howard stretching as far as he could humanly stretch to get the runner in the fifth.
"How come one of you guys didn't come to pick me up?" Howard said.
The biggest play might have been the inning-ending double play that Chase Utley and Castro turned with the bases loaded and one out in the seventh. Yunel Escobar hit a grounder up the middle. The ball hit off the mound and Utley made a diving stab to his right and flipped the ball to Castro, whose momentum carried him across the bag as he made the throw to Howard to end the inning.
Halladay pumped his fist into his glove, maybe the first time this season he showed any emotion on the field.
"It's hard not to be [pumped up]," Halladay said. "You get plays like that, that basically save the game for you. They could have easily scored two runs. You're going to always show emotion when you get plays like that in big parts of the game."
Howard also made a fantastic diving catch on a one-hopper to his right in the ninth. He flipped the ball to Halladay at first to retire Jones for the first out.
"I tripped," Howard joked. "All of those were big plays. Vic brings back the homer from Glaus. That could have changed the flow of the game. That was early in the game, too. That would have made it 1-1. Chase made a diving play. Those were two big plays where the momentum could have shifted."
The Phillies provided just enough offense. They have sputtered offensively the past four games. They scored 77 runs (7.7 per game) in their first 10 games, including a .315 batting average and a .935 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, but have scored just six runs (1.5 per game) in their past four games, including a .188 batting average and a .533 OPS.
They took a 1-0 lead in the second when Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez hit back-to-back doubles, and took a 2-0 lead in the sixth when Howard singled and scored on Werth's double to left-center field.
Halladay and the defense made two runs plenty.
In case you were wondering, Manuel said the thought of pulling Halladay before the ninth never crossed his mind.
Nobody even warmed up in the bullpen.
"They were all down there eating peanuts with the fans," Manuel said of his relievers.
They should get used to it. Halladay looks like he could be throwing a few more complete games in the National League this season.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.