PHILADELPHIA -- There is a spot on the Citizens Bank Park grass that will forever belong to Roy Halladay even if he never pitches again here for the Phillies. The sod has been replaced, as are the days when Halladay dared everyone to dream. Fourteen feet from home plate, on the lip of the dirt around home plate, is where Halladay achieved greatness one October evening.
He took a long walk past his spot Tuesday at 8:42 p.m. He lowered his head. Six innings in a 6-4 victory over Miami served as positive reinforcement for a 36-year-old pitcher whose confidence wavered.
This was his final home start in 2013 for the Phillies, and maybe ever. It happened in a meaningless September game at a half-empty stadium with a chill reminiscent of the day three years ago when he authored a postseason no-hitter against Cincinnati capped by the memorable dribbler fielded by Carlos Ruiz.
Halladay, a free agent this winter, allowed one run to Miami. He escaped trouble in the fourth and fifth innings. He scattered four hits, three walks and a hit batter as he nibbled with off-speed pitches all night.
Context, of course, is crucial. The Marlins entered Tuesday with a .627 OPS, the worst in baseball by 50 points. No team has posted a lower mark since the 1981 Toronto Blue Jays at .617.
Halladay fashioned his best start of 2013 against Miami with eight innings of one-run ball in April. The Marlins were the opponents in his worst start, 10 days before shoulder surgery, when he permitted nine runs in 21/3 innings. His penultimate outing will come Tuesday in Miami.
Halladay teetered in the fourth. He hit a batter for the fourth straight start. A wild pitch moved Giancarlo Stanton to second before Chris Coghlan walked. A bouncer hit into the hole would have been an infield hit were it not for Jimmy Rollins' deft toss to third base for the inning-ending force.
The Marlins scored in the fifth on a Donovan Solano double and an Ed Lucas single. Christian Yelich drew a walk, which put Stanton at the plate as the go-ahead run. He hacked and missed at two 85-m.p.h., belt-high pitches. He fouled a hanging curveball to the screen. The slugger swung at a low change-up and popped it into first baseman Kevin Frandsen's glove.
Chase Utley provided the support for Halladay. He slapped a run-scoring single in the third before Carlos Ruiz's two-run hit. Utley blistered his second three-run homer in as many days to seal it in the fifth, although Jonathan Papelbon needed 32 pitches to save it.
Halladay threw strike one Tuesday at 7:06 p.m. to a smattering of cheers. About 10,000 people dotted the stands. There was no extraordinary reaction when he departed 96 minutes later. Three years ago, his teammates mobbed him and the Citizens Bank Park fans swayed in euphoria. No one imagined this possible ending.
(c)2013 The Philadelphia Inquirer
Visit The Philadelphia Inquirer at www.philly.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services