—Citizens Bank Park
It’s beginning to feel like the Phillies and Braves are shopping in Macy’s. One team is standing on the escalator heading to the top floor, searching for the fine china, while the other is watching them pass on the way down, searching for the exits. Atlanta’s move toward the door continued tonight as Jayson Werth’s three-run homer paced the Phillies to a 5-3 win, their ninth straight.
Roy Halladay wasn’t perfect, but he didn’t need to be. His offense gave him enough to work with and he in turn provided his team with a victory, his 20th of the season. For Doc, it was the third 20-win season of his fine career and the first for the Phils since 1982 (Steve Carlton). It also pushed the Phillies five steps ahead of the Braves in what was once shaping up to be dogfight for the division.
Again, Halladay didn’t have his best stuff as he looked slightly worn down. Perhaps the long season has begun to take its toll. Overall, it was yet another quality start – seven innings, seven hits, three earned runs, two walks, and three strikeouts. It’s been a string of so-so performances by his standards, and although he wasn’t of the Cy Young caliber we’ve become accustomed to, Halladay gutted out a win in one of the most significant games he’s ever pitched.
“Being able to think about getting ourselves to the playoffs and finishing these last couple of weeks strong has been the priority,” said Halladay, with multiple ice wraps covering his upper body. “To be able to go out and pitch meaningful games at this point in the season makes all the difference.
Braves starter Mike Minor was sent to the showers early, going 2 1/3 innings while allowing those three runs on seven hits. The 22-year old rookie was forced to toss 73 pitches to get just seven outs.
Werth’s bomb to deep left-center field, his 25th of the year, opened up the scoring in the third inning. Minor was chased one batter later after allowing a double to Raul Ibanez following the home run.
Atlanta would counter with one in the fifth and one in the sixth to bring it to 3-2, but the Phils would eventually pull away. In the bottom of the sixth, Ibanez notched his second double, a screamer into the right field corner, scoring Ryan Howard and Werth. Halladay would exit after seven, handing it off to Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge. The Phillies closer converted his 20th save in his last 22 tries and in the process may have closed it down for good on the Braves.
As for Doc’s 20th victory, Charlie Manuel heaped praise on his ace. “He’s had a tremendous year for us. Count the innings and the wins he’s got, that speaks for itself, ” said Manuel.
Halladay’s 20th overshadowed a game of many stars tonight. Chase Utley and Wilson Valdez turned two beautiful double plays, including a ballerina-like pirouette move by Valdez on one of them. Lidge has hit his stride at the perfect time, recording his 19th scoreless appearance in those 22 opportunities. And the fans. They were loud and carrying towels. Citizens Bank Park was bumpin’.
Tomorrow, the final nail in the Braves coffin can be hammered down. The grave has been dug; it’s up to Roy Oswalt seal it up.