09/22/10 12:16 AM ET
No. 20 for Doc has Phillies five up on Braves
By Todd Zolecki / MLB.com
He never opened it.
He never touched the flutes that sat next to it, either.
Halladay wants to wait. He hopes to see more Champagne -- the type that is popped and poured over heads, soaked into clothes and burned into eyes -- in the near future.
"I'd much prefer that," he said after the Phillies' 5-3 victory over the Atlanta Braves. "Hopefully the sooner, the better."
Halladay put the Phillies in position to make it happen sooner than later, extending their National League East lead over the Braves to five games with 10 games to play. The magic number is six to clinch the franchise's fourth consecutive division title.
"It only gets more fun from here on out," Halladay said.
The Phillies have won nine consecutive games and are 30 games over .500 (91-61) for the first time since 1993. They have the best record in the NL and are two games behind the New York Yankees in the loss column for the best record in baseball.
"We're surging. We're making a run at it," Jayson Werth said. "We're right where we want to be. We're going for the best record in baseball. Make no mistake about it. Everyone in here feels like we're the best team in baseball, and we're going to go out and prove it."
Halladay, who allowed seven hits and three runs in seven innings, has made that quest possible. He is 20-10 with a 2.53 ERA. He is the first Phillies pitcher to win 20 games since Steve Carlton went 23-11 in 1982. Halladay is the first Phillies right-hander to win 20 games since Robin Roberts went 23-14 in 1955, and just the fourth Phillies pitcher to win 20 games since 1917 (Carlton, Roberts and Chris Short).
Pitchers won 20 games 98 times between Carlton and Halladay.
"It seems like this team has turned into a pitching team a little bit the last couple years," Werth said with a smile. "I'm glad that Roy could make his mark on it."
"It's definitely special," Halladay said. "But the best part about it is it's been secondary for me. Being able to think about getting ourselves to the playoffs and finishing these last couple of weeks strong has been the priority. To be able to go out and pitch in meaningful games at this point in the season makes all the difference."
Tuesday might have been the biggest start of Halladay's career. He toiled for years with the Toronto Blue Jays behind the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and -- more recently -- Tampa Bay Rays.
This is his first legitimate pennant race.
The Phillies offered Halladay an early cushion Tuesday. Braves left-hander Mike Minor walked Placido Polanco and allowed a single to Chase Utley to put runners on first and second with nobody out in the third inning. Ryan Howard lined out to Braves right fielder Jason Heyward for the first out, but Werth crushed a 2-1 fastball into the left-center-field stands for a three-run home run to make it 3-0.
"I just couldn't get my breaking pitches over," Minor said. "Basically they weren't going to swing at anything that was bending or changing speeds or anything like that. Really, they just negated everything but the fastball. If I didn't hit my spot, they were going to hit it pretty hard."
Halladay allowed a run in both the fifth and sixth innings to make it 3-2. Raul Ibanez came through with a clutch two-out double to right field in the sixth inning to make it 5-2, but Halladay allowed a homer in the seventh to make it a two-run game.
Halladay is 4-2 with a 4.32 ERA in his last six starts, which has fans wondering if he might be tiring with two more starts scheduled to finish the regular season. He already has thrown 241 2/3 innings, which leads baseball.
Halladay said again that he feels fine. But he also might be grinding through the end of the season, looking for his second wind in the postseason.
Former Phillies left-hander Cliff Lee went 2-4 with a 6.13 ERA in his final seven starts of the 2009 season, but had a brilliant postseason.
Halladay hopes to enjoy the same success.
He hopes to pop a few bottles of Champagne, too.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.