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Halladay's grit adds to his growing stature


SAN FRANCISCO -- This wasn't Doc Halladay operating. But at least it wasn't the docs operating on Halladay.

Did it look like a grind to you? Did it look like the Phillies' ace was moving in quicksand against the Giants? Did it look like a stiff breeze was knocking his fastball down?

It sure should have. In gritting his teeth and grinding the Phillies to a 4-2 Bee Gees-style win in Game 5 of this NL Championship Series -- you know, stayin' alive -- Halladay might have produced his most impressive feat yet.

He strained his groin while throwing a pitch to Cody Ross in the second inning.

He finished that at-bat by blowing a 91 mph fastball past Ross for strike three.

He finished his evening by pitching six gutsy innings, handing a 3-2 lead to the Philadelphia bullpen and helping to push this series back to Pennsylvania for Game 6 on Saturday.

"After a couple of innings I was like, 'This guy's pitching on one leg!'" Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino said.

"We were aware of it," said closer Brad Lidge, who knocked off a 1-2-3 ninth. "We knew he wasn't at 100 percent. That made it all the more impressive. He battled. He didn't have one of his legs under him. You could see his velocity was down.

"Once we got the lead, you could see it in his face that he wasn't giving it back.

"That might be one of his best outings ever."

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First reaction: Let's not get carried away here. This is a guy who threw a perfect game in Florida earlier this summer, then no-hit the Reds to open the playoffs.

Second reaction: This was also a guy who, three weeks ago, had never even pitched in the playoffs. And now he's dragging a team teetering between NL dynasty and unexpected elimination out of danger by the scruff of the neck?

Yeah, Lidge has the right perspective.

"It's definitely satisfying," Halladay said slowly, contemplating the thought. "It's something where you don't want to have to overcome those things, but it's a good feeling when you do."

Halladay said he felt a sharp pain in his groin during the Ross at-bat. Of course that's when it happened. If you were told that Halladay was going to strain his groin and then had to guess which Giants hitter would be at the plate at the time, wouldn't your first guess by Ross?

Even when he's not imitating Reggie Jackson with another October homer, this guy Ross is inflicting pain on the Phillies in other ways.

The pain came, Halladay thought, when he was "over-striding" while delivering a pitch. What saved him, he said, was that as the night rolled on, the pain sort of hovered right where it was. It did not get worse.

For that, Doc tossed an assist to the Phillies' docs. Technically, the trainers. A quick what-do-we-do huddle resulted in a decision that Halladay should ride the clubhouse exercise bike while the Phillies were batting. Walk, too.

"Keep it as loose as I could," Halladay said. "Keep moving."

On the mound, there were no magic elixirs. While he claimed to have executed pretty much the game plan he went in with, he leaned on his cutter and changeup far more than usual. He didn't have that extra push, and the radar gun showed it. His wicked sinker, for example, normally averages around 94 mph. Against the Giants in Game 5, it sat in the 91, 92 range.

'I'm just proud we're still playing,' Roy Halladay says after his Game 5 win. (Getty Images)  
'I'm just proud we're still playing,' Roy Halladay says after his Game 5 win. (Getty Images)  
"I threw a couple after that, but it didn't feel like I finished," Halladay said.

Doggedly protecting a 3-2 lead, the sixth inning -- his last -- probably was Halladay's finest.

He got two quick outs after Buster Posey had drawn a full-count walk. But then Pablo Sandoval's single moved Posey over to third.

Up next, Uribe worked a 2-and-2 count and, with 43,713 orange pom-pon-waving fans roaring, Ruiz came out for a quick conversation.

"Let's back him up with curveballs here," Ruiz told Halladay, meaning, throw the unexpected.

"I thought it was a great call," Halladay said. "He's an aggressive hitter."

He threw the first curve for ball three in the dirt.

He nailed the next pitch, also a curve, and Uribe swung and missed.

Tying run stranded on third.

It was the 108th pitch for Halladay, and he had a pretty good idea it would be his last.

Afterward, he was not about to embrace the wounded-warrior hero role.

"It's not ideal," he said. "I think, at this point [in the playoffs], nobody wants to come out. Whatever you can do to make the adjustments."

For Halladay, those started early. Even before the groin strain, it was a battle. His first two pitches to leadoff batter Andres Torres in the first were balls just off the plate. Torres wound up walking.

Then Freddy Sanchez drilled a single up the middle, and then Halladay missed closely again on each of the first two pitches to Aubrey Huff.

At that point, with two on, one out and just 10 pitches into his game, Halladay received a very special visitor on the mound: Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee.

It might have been the first time since his first year or two in the bigs that a pitching coach visited so early.

"I was a little surprised," Halladay said. "We talked a little about where some of the pitches were. I was missing off the plate early. There were some close pitches that I thought were balls. He was making sure we weren't getting squeezed.

"I didn't think so. They were close, but they were definitely off the plate."

It was an eventful inning. Torres scored the Giants' first run on Posey's bouncer to second, but then Halladay blew a called third strike past Pat Burrell to end the inning. Burrell, an antisocial sort on his best days anyway, didn't like the call and barked at plate ump Jeff Nelson, then turned and challenged Halladay with an expletive ("What the ---- are you looking at?").

"I was watching what was going on, and he started yelling at me," Halladay said. "There are a lot of emotions, obviously, at this point in the season, and he's a competitor.

"I was looking at him. I don't know if that initiates anything. I thought it was a pretty good pitch. He had a conversation with the umpire, then he started yelling."

Inning after that is when Halladay injured himself and ... yes, this was a grind, through and through, from all angles, all night.

"His velocity wasn't 93, 94 [like usual]," Victorino said. "It was more 89, 90.

"It shows me who he is. He wasn't about to come out of that game, I'll tell you that."

One small correction here. The Phillies already knew who Halladay was. But on a night when their season could have ended right here in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge, they sure found it nice to be reminded.

Proud of his performance?

"I'm just proud we're still playing," Halladay said. "That's first and foremost."


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