Saturday, August 4, 2012

Halladay, Phillies shut down D'backs

PHILADELPHIA – Watching Ryan Howard break out in a power walk – and not a running gallop – out of the batter’s box in the fourth inning, you wondered about his surgically repaired left Achilles’.
Three pitches later, when John Mayberry Jr. clubbed a double to right and Howard moved from first to third, you wondered again since it looked like he was running in cement. When he got to third base, he bent over and had a short conversation with third base coach Juan Samuel, who huddled in to hear Howard.
Beginning Sunday, the last-place Phillies will have 55 games remaining in their schedule. On a day that began with team MVP Carlos Ruiz landing on the disabled list for at least the month and with the Phils 16 games back of the Washington Nationals, those games matter little in the long run.
And as the three trades in the last week have showed, 2012 isn’t important anymore. The organization is setting up its chips in attempt to put forth a winning hand in 2013.
So why run Howard out there every day? Why tax Chase Utley’s knees? Why put any more mileage on Roy Halladay’s well-traveled arm?
The Phillies rebounded from back-to-back losses to beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 3-0 Saturday night. Erik Kratz, starting for Ruiz, ripped a solo home run to lead off the third to provide all the offense the Phils would need.
And although a logical argument could be made for an early end to his season, Halladay, for one, didn’t look like a guy in need of rest or an early end to his season. Halladay carved out his best start in three months, holding the Diamondbacks to three hits in seven shutout innings to collect career win No. 193, his first victory since May 17.
In between victories, Halladay missed nearly two months with a right lat injury. In his first three starts since returning from the DL, Halladay had mixed results but mostly didn’t look like a two-time Cy Young Award winner: 0-1 with a 5.82 ERA. 
Since Halladay has logged over 2,600 major league innings and has faced 10,751 batters in his career, it was fair to ask if the Phils would considering shutting him down at some point in the final two months of the season. Halladay turns 36-years-old next May, when he’ll be in the final guaranteed year of his contract with the Phillies.
Charlie Manuel was asked about it after Halladay’s star last weekend in Atlanta and he was asked about it again Saturday afternoon.
“Roy has something to say about it, because he’s old enough and he’s been through it and he definitely don’t want to be shut down because he thinks he can get better by throwing,” Manuel said.
Halladay may have helped defend Manuel’s pregame message in his seven innings Saturday night.
After setting down 10 in a row to finish off his last start Sunday in Atlanta, Halladay retired nine of the first 10 batters he faced. Through five innings, he had recorded more strikeouts (four) than he had allowed base runners (three), and hadn’t given up an extra-base hit.
When he did allow an extra-base hit – Jason Kubel’s one-out double in the sixth, which was misplayed by Domonic Brown in left, was the only extra-base hit for Arizona all night – Halladay responded by striking out three-hole hitter Jason Kubel en route to retiring the final five batters he faced.
Coupled with his finish a week ago today at Turner Field, Halladay has retired 31 of the last 35 batters he has faced.
Perhaps slowing down the schedule for Howard, Utley and the every day players will make sense for the Phils at some point in the last chapter of their lost 2012 season. But maybe Halladay, fresh off a lengthy layoff, is best served by continue to get his arm back into gear before the offseason.


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