MIAMI -- Roy Halladay felt he absolutely needed to pitch Saturday at Marlins Park.
It was the right thing to do.
Sure, he struggled early in a 9-5 victory over the Marlins, but struggles have been the story of his season. He allowed six hits, four runs, three walks, one home run and struck out seven in five innings. He lacked the dominance he had shown so often to Phillies fans in 2010 and 2011, but he grinded and improved along the way. And he considered that an accomplishment.
"Regardless of what the results have been, I feel like I kind of owed it to my teammates to keep going out there," Halladay said. "Chase [Utley] continues to play. Everybody else is going out there and continuing to play. The last thing I'm going to do is not try to go out and pitch."
Halladay finished the season 11-8, but with a 4.49 ERA. It is his highest ERA since he posted a 10.64 ERA in 2000.
There had been some question as to whether Halladay would make this start. He suffered the second-shortest start of his career in his last start on Sept. 22 against the Braves at Citizens Bank Park. He had been bothered with spasms behind his right shoulder, but after a successful bullpen session Wednesday the Phillies deemed him ready to pitch.
That was just the latest obstacle for Halladay to overcome in this forgettable season. He spent a little more than seven weeks this season on the disabled list because of a strained latissimus dorsi, which the Phillies said affected his performance the first couple of months of the year. Halladay worked hard to get back in July to try to help salvage the season, but the season could not be saved.
Maybe next year.
Next year starts shortly with Halladay's offseason workout program.
"Honestly, I look forward to it," he said. "I look forward to kind of wipe the slate clean. I feel like some of the issues I had this year, I felt they kind of snuck up on me. Having an idea of what those issues were now and being able to go into the winter and taking care of some of those areas where I felt I was really lacking all year, I'm looking forward to it. I feel like I have an idea of what I need to do going forward. It's different than what I've done in the past. Feeling like I know what the things I need to improve on and what areas I need to work on is important for me going into the winter. I look forward to the challenge. I really do."
Halladay, who turns 35 in May, said much of the work will be core related and lower-body related. He said he thought that slowed him down and led to some of his shoulder and back problems.
"Getting older you have to do things different," he said. "I've got the [Jamie] Moyers and the [Chris] Carpenters, fortunately some old friends to kind of rely on also."
The first inning started poorly for Halladay.
He allowed singles to Bryan Peterson and Donovan Solano before walking Jose Reyes to load the bases with nobody out. Giancarlo Stanton followed with a single up to the middle to score Peterson and Solano to make it 2-0. Halladay retired the next two batters he faced, but Rob Brantly singled to right field to score Reyes to make it 3-0.
Halladay threw 31 pitches in the first inning, only 16 of which went for strikes.
"I felt like after that it got better," Halladay said. "It would have been nice to start without that first inning. From then on I felt like things were a lot better. I felt like mechanically they were better, and location they were better."
"I guarantee this," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "When he comes back next spring, you'll see a guy that's ready to go and strong. I believe that."
Stanton crushed a 411-foot home run to left field in the third inning to give the Marlins a 4-2 lead, but the Phillies came back. Philadelphia scored twice in the second inning when Pete Orr doubled to center field, scoring Domonic Brown and Nate Schierholtz. They took a 5-4 lead in the fifth inning when Chase Utley singled to center, scoring Halladay and Jimmy Rollins, and Domonic Brown tripled to right-center field to score Utley.
It was Rollins' 100th run scored of the season.
Carlos Ruiz doubled to center field in the seventh inning, scoring Rollins and Utley, to make it 7-4.
The victory -- which took a staggering 4 hours, 3 minutes -- improved the Phillies to 79-79, meaning they need to finish 3-1 to finish the season with a winning record. They need to finish 2-2 to avoid their first losing season since 2002 and avoid becoming just the sixth team in baseball's modern era to follow a 100-win season with a losing season.
But Saturday was about Halladay.
How would he fare in his final start of the season? More importantly, can he bounce back in 2013?
"I know what I need to do," Halladay said. "I feel like there's no doubt for me. I feel like I can prepare myself the right way and go out to be successful next year. Obviously, there are no guarantees, but I feel good about it. I feel good about what I have in front of me."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.