CHICAGO, IL - Roy Halladay #34 of the Philadelphia Phillies takes a short break from the heat as Chase Utley ties his shoe against the Chicago Cubs. Halladay left the game in the fifth inning. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
There's no other pitcher in the world I would rather have on the mound for an elimination game in the playoffs than Roy Halladay. Not a single one. Not Cliff Lee, not Justin Verlander, not Tim Lincecum, not Yu Darvish, and not some sort of robo-Walter Johnson. The Phillies are at home, and they have the world's greatest pitcher on the mound. As far as decisive playoff games go, the Phillies are pretty well set up.
It's too bad about that whole "baseball" thing. There isn't a Phillies fan out there who isn't nervous. After 166 games, after the embracing the Cliff Lee signing as the coup that it was, after looking past the regular season to get to the playoffs, everything rests on a single baseball game. Baseball doesn't like to make things simple. For every game you expect, like one with Roy Halladay looking like the magnificent pitcher he is, there's something you don't expect, like a squirrel distracting Roy Oswalt.
Halladay pitched in 32 games for the Phillies in the regular season. In eight of those games, the Phillies lost. Here then, are some of odd events that conspired to make the Phillies lose in some Halladay starts:
April 19 vs. Brewers
The scoring opened up with a Yuniesky Betancourt double, which is statistically rarer than a squirrel distracting Roy Oswalt. With first base open, Halladay pitched to George Kottaras instead of Randy Wolf, and that was the only run the Brewers would need.
Later in the game, Mark Kotsay drove in a run off Halladay, which is statistically rarer than a squirrel distracting Oswalt by carrying a banjo and singing a bluegrass version of "Written in the Stars."
pause for dramatic effect
The Cubs. Looking through the box score on Baseball Reference, it looks like "R. Lopez" got a hit and scored off him, and I think that's a computer-generated name that was used because the Cubs didn't want to pay the MLBPA licensing fees for that game. The only other explanation is that it was the pitcher, Rodrigo Lopez, and we know that can't be it.
This was also the game in which Halladay almost melted and/or turned into vapor.
August 16 vs. Diamondbacks
This one might have been Halladay's finest game of the season if not for the ninth inning. He struck out 14 and walked one. There really isn't a way for a pitcher to pitch any better. But in the ninth, a Lyle Overbay double off Halladay won the game. Just a couple of weeks before this game, Overbay was deemed to be too bad to play on the Pittsburgh Pirates.
September 19 vs. Cardinals
And the obvious conclusion. In his last loss of the regular season, Halladay fell to the Cardinals. The fourth and decisive run scored when Nick Punto scored on a two-out double from Albert Pujols.
Punto was on because he walked. In front of Pujols. With two outs.
The point of this all isn't to make it seem like Halladay is anything other than a great pitcher. Rather a reminder that baseball is what happens when you're busy making plans. It's not like you needed a reminder, per se, but seeing the specifics of how Halladay lost this year couldn't hurt.
If you talk to a nervous Phillies fan, and you think they're nuts for being nervous with Halladay on the mound, this is why they're fidgety. It's a long season, and through various twists and turns, it all comes down to a single game. If you've watched more than three baseball games in your life, you know why that's an uncertain thing.