SAN FRANCISCO (CBS)—Roy Halladay shuts off the world each time he prepares to pitch. He doesn’t talk to anyone, or exchanges high-fives with teammates. He walks past everyone in the clubhouse like a ghost, in game mode. His milieu is narrowed to a spiral notebook of copious observations of every batter he faced, a brain session with his catcher, and a special place where the Phillies’ right-handed ace can sit privately and cleanse all doubt.
The only thing Halladay might have doubted after the first batter Thursday night at San Francisco’s AT&T Park was home plate umpire Jeff Nelson’s strike zone, when he walked San Francisco’s lead-off hitter Andres Torres (the first time this season Halladay gave up a lead-off walk). It was an early indication that something wasn’t quite right with the Phils’ stopper.
We found out more later, after Halladay gutted out a critical 4-2 Game 5 victory over the Giants, going six innings and giving up six hits and striking out five, as the Phils remained alive in the best-of-seven National League Championship Series, now down 3-2 with the series returning back to Philadelphia for Game 6 on Saturday.
Halladay didn’t exactly reveal too much about a slightly pulled right groin, injured in the second inning. After that, Halladay’s velocity on his fastball dropped precipitously.
“From the second inning on, [Halladay] had a mild groin pull on his right side and he decided to stay in,” Phils’ manager Charlie Manuel said. “His velocity on his fastball dropped down. He wasn’t going to let us take him out. He said he hurt it in the second inning. He was determined he was going to stay in the game. It’s the reason why we had [Jose] Contreras warming up in the fifth. Once he got through the sixth inning, we took him out. We needed him to gut it out. I asked [Halladay] when he’ll be available again, next year. He told me in five days.”
Halladay simply wasn’t Halladay. He had a legitimate reason and he wasn’t about to make any excuses.
“I did it pitching and you make adjustments,” said Halladay, explaining how he got hurt. “I just battled and was able to get the lead and I wanted to just keep the lead. You try and make due [with the injury]. You go as long as they let you go. At this point, you want the ball and you want to be out there, and fortunately, they stuck with me. You try and shorten your stride a little bit. We threw a lot of fastballs, there just wasn’t that much on it. I just had to be more cautious about my location. There was obviously an emphasis to make good pitches. You try to keep things as quiet as possible.”
Aside from a strange third inning, and Jayson Werth’s solo homer to right in the ninth, which padded the Phils’ 1-run lead, the Phillies’ offense still sputtered.
Philadelphia got needed some help in the third, when Aubrey Huff botched a shot from Shane Victorino that scored Raul Ibanez and Carlos Ruiz. The runs were made possible by a Halladay sacrifice, which was actually foul. Halladay’s bunt rolled a few inches outside the batter’s box, Giants’ catcher Buster Posey scooped it up and tried to get the lead runner, Ibanez, at third. But third baseman Pablo Sandoval lost track of where he was in relation to the bag, stomping twice and hitting dirt, missing the base. Halladay, meanwhile, was thrown out easily at first, since he barely budged from the batter’s box, assuming the ball was foul.
“I don’t know what happened there, it was so quick,” Halladay said. “By the time [Posey] picked it up, I couldn’t tell [whether it was fair or foul].”
Victorino made the Giants pay with a bullet that ricocheted off Huff, scoring Ibanez and Ruiz.
Ibanez showed some signs he’s snapped out of his postseason slump by going 2-for-4, but he’s still hitting .185 (5-for-27) in the playoffs. That was a plus. The minus was Ryan Howard, the one Phillie who had been hitting this postseason, going 0-for-4, while striking out three times.
It was the bottom of the Phils’ order that stirred up most of the problems for Giants’ starter Tim Lincecum, who suffered his first postseason loss. Jimmy Rollins, Ibanez and Ruiz—the Phils six, seven and eight hitters—were a combined 3-for-10, and responsible for scoring two of the Phillies’ four runs.
But again, the Phils’ futility persisted. The Phillies scored runs in just four innings over the 27 they played at the Giants’ AT&T Park.
There’s a Game 6 because of the Phillies’ bullpen. Contreras and J.C. Romero shutout the Giants in the seventh and Ryan Madson struck out the side in the eighth. Brad Lidge closed it out with a clean ninth inning.
The Giants scored solo runs in the first and fourth innings. Posey, who’s emerging as a star in this series, got Torres home on a fielder’s choice, and Cody Ross, who’s been a bane to the Phillies throughout this series, struck again in fourth with an RBI double that scored Pat Burrell.
The series returns to Citizens Bank Park for Game 6, when Roy Oswalt, the Game 4 loser in relief, takes on Jonathan Sanchez, who lost Game 2 of the NLCS giving up three runs (two earned) over six innings. Prior to that, the lefty had dominated the Phillies in his five previous starts, not allowing more than four hits in any start.
If the Yankees win Game 6 of the ALCS Friday night, Saturday’s Phils-Giants game will be held at 3:57 p.m. If the Rangers win Friday night, Game 6 of the NLCS will be at 7:57 p.m. Saturday.
Reported by: Joseph Santoliquito