Through the three-game losing streak they took into tonight's game against the Braves, starting pitching was the least of the Phillies' problems. Jamie Moyer was great after a disastrous first inning in Saturday's 5-1 loss to the Marlins; Cole Hamels dominated in a losing effort on Sunday, working into the 9th inning of a 2-0 loss to Florida; Kyle Kendrick, of all people, fired eight shutout innings at Atlanta Tuesday night before the bullpen caved in and the Braves rallied to apply a late taint kick. The common thread was a near-total lack of hitting, as the Phillies managed just four runs in the three defeats.
The lineup was limp again Wednesday night, managing just two runs and seven hits against Tim Hudson and two relievers despite Hudson's wildness through six innings. It didn't matter. Roy Halladay threw his second complete game in four starts and first shutout as a Phillie, helped by consistently excellent defense behind him as the Phils turned aside Atlanta 2-0. Halladay retired the first 11 Braves hitters, escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the seventh and got Chipper Jones, Brian McCann and Troy Glaus--to ground out in the 9th, the last three of his 14 groundouts on the evening. Halladay allowed five hits and two walks, and struck out seven.
The Phils had a chance to take a big early lead, as Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez hit back to back doubles to start the top of the second. Juan Castro followed Ibanez with a single, putting men on the corners with none out, but Hudson retired the next three hitters to keep it 1-0. That was it for scoring until the 6th, when Ryan Howard led off with a check-swing single through the vacated left side of the infield and Werth followed with his second double of the night, scoring the big man from first. He went to third on the throw to the plate, but was cut down at home when Castro grounded into a fielder's choice.
Atlanta's best chance came in the bottom of the 7th, when Jones and McCann singled on Halladay's first two pitches of the
evening inning. Glaus--whom Shane Victorino had reached over the wall to rob of a home run in the second inning--struck out, but miracle-performing rookie Jason Heyward drew a walk to load the bases. Yunel Escobar worked the count to 2-2, then connected for what looked like a two-run single--until Utley laid out for it and flipped to Castro, who deftly turned the double play to end the inning.
Halladay improved to 4-0, winning his fourth straight start to open a season for the first time in his career and lowering his ERA from a superb 1.13 ERA to an unfathomable 0.82. One point of hopefully minor concern: third baseman Placido Polanco was hit on the elbow by a pitch in the top of the first and left the game a few innings later with a contusion. Early reports are that he'll be out tomorrow, but back by the weekend.