Close call rattles Halladay in pivotal sixth
Ace allows key insurance runs after thinking he had strike three
PHILADELPHIA -- Cody Ross delivered big blows with a couple of long drives.
But as Roy Halladay dealt with the Phillies' 4-3 loss to the Giants in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series on Saturday night, he couldn't overlook the fact that his much-hyped matchup against Tim Lincecum might have turned out different if the sixth inning hadn't verified the fact that baseball is indeed a game of inches.
"It's a part of baseball," Halladay said. "We've got to win four [games]. So you move on. That's the bottom line."
Ross claimed the spotlight courtesy of the solo homers that he hit off Halladay in the third and fifth innings. But on the way to claiming yet another one-run victory (each of their four postseason wins this year has been notched by one run), the Giants delivered what proved to be the decisive blow during a two-run sixth inning that the Phillies' ace could have easily escaped unscathed.
Halladay surrendered a two-out single to Buster Posey and then seemingly painted an 0-2 fastball to Pat Burrell on the inside corner and at the knees. The right-hander started going toward the dugout before realizing home-plate umpire Derryl Cousins disagreed with his assessment that he'd completed the sixth inning with that pitch.
"Yeah, I did [think it was a strike]," Halladay said. "But that's part of it. There were obviously calls that they wanted, too. It's part of the game. If you don't get a pitch, you have to make a pitch on the next one."
Given life, Burrell delivered the next pitch out toward the left-center-field wall that he often familiarized himself with during his days in Philadelphia. Raul Ibanez raced back, got his right cleat into the wall and began to rise just as the long drive hit off the heel of his glove and fell to the ground for a two-out RBI double.
Running from first base on the play, Posey scored in uncontested fashion.
"I thought he hit it better than that," Ibanez said. "I thought it was going to go up off the top of the wall. By the time I jumped against the wall to get a little leverage and to use the wall to get a little height, the ball was a little lower than I thought."
Burrell -- who was pinch-run for by Nate Schierholtz, who would then score what proved to be the game-winning run on the Juan Uribe RBI single that followed -- was familiar with Ibanez's explanation. The rejuvenated Giants outfielder played left field in Philadelphia from 2000-08.
"He made a heck of an effort to get back there and get his glove on it," Burrell said. "You never know in this park. You can hit some balls certain days and they can go over the fence, and some days they don't. But you just have to run out of the box and try to get to second base. And fortunately for us, he wasn't able to grab it."
Unable to regain the dominance he had when he no-hit the Reds during his first career postseason start on Oct. 6, Halladay allowed four runs and eight hits in seven innings. He threw 73 of his 105 pitches for strikes and didn't issue a walk.
The veteran control artist would have certainly liked to have seen what would have transpired had he actually gotten the strike on the 0-2 pitch he threw to Burrell. But to his credit, Halladay was more than willing to shoulder the blame and concede that things certainly could have been different had he made a better 1-2 pitch to the Giants outfielder.
"I made some bad pitches at times," Halladay said. "There were times that I made good pitches and other times where they weren't good. The first pitch to Ross, I didn't think was that bad. But the second one, I left it out over the plate. Then in the sixth inning, I made a couple of pitches that cost me. I made too many mistakes and it ended up costing me."
While Halladay and the Phillies were forced to wonder what might have been, Burrell and the Giants walked away from the opener of this best-of-seven series simply happy that this game of inches went their way during the decisive sixth-inning sequence of events.
"Well, it was a ball," Burrell said of the borderline pitch. "I don't know. I haven't checked. I know that, you know, playing here and the home team and the crowd, apparently it was close."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.