Phil Sheridan: Hyped duel doesn’t meet expectations

Roy Halladay looked unhittable to everyone except Cody Ross.

Tim Lincecum looked hittable except when the
Phillies really needed a hit.

That pretty much sums up the keenly anticipated Game 1 matchup
between these two Cy Young Award-winning pitchers. Doc and The
Freak. The
Phillies find themselves in the
unfamiliar position of hoping it is only the first meeting of the
two.

That’s because, after winning the first game of seven postseason
series in a row, the
Phillies lost. That they did so
against Lincecum, winner of the last two National League Cy Youngs,
should not discourage you. That they did so with Halladay, likely
winner of this year’s Cy Young, should give you cause for some
concern.

Halladay, who threw a no-hitter to extend that Game 1 winning
streak against the Reds, seemed to be picking up where he left off.
He retired the first seven batters he faced, and the festive fans
at Citizens Bank Park were getting that feeling they were about to
see something incredible again.

They were right.

Ross, a 5-foot-10 outfielder who was placed on waivers by the
Florida Marlins in August, crushed a 1-1 Halladay pitch in the
third inning. It was the first hit and first run allowed by
Halladay after 111/3 brilliant postseason innings.

No big deal, right? After all, Halladay wasn’t going to be
flawless forever. Manager Charlie Manuel, perhaps foreseeing a spot
of trouble on the horizon, tried to tamp expectations down just a
bit before the game.

“Our pitchers, let me tell you something,” Manuel said, “they’re
human. I mean, they’re going to give up some runs sometime.”

Yes, even Halladay is human. He proved that the next time Ross
the Tiny Giant came up, allowing another solo home run to left.

Let’s reiterate here: Ross was cut loose by the Marlins. He was
on the losing side the night Halladay threw his perfect game in
South Florida. The Giants claimed him, they acknowledged at the
time, partly to prevent the rival San Diego Padres from getting
him. They were batting him eighth only because they had to reserve
the ninth spot for Lincecum.

Cody Ross? Really? It was like a gnat flying into Superman’s eye
and forcing him to crash.

“He’s a guy who wanted to be a rodeo clown,” Giants manager
Bruce Bochy said, and it appeared he intended that to be a
compliment.

Worse, though, was what happened in the top of the sixth. That
was more like seeing Superman burst out of the phone booth and trip
on his cape. Halladay, who prides himself on that remarkable focus,
lost his composure. Well, for him.

With two out and a runner on first, Halladay got two quick
strikes on Pat Burrell. The third pitch was close, and plate umpire
Derryl Cousins called it a ball. Burrell then drove a pitch to the
wall in left, his old stomping grounds. With an ill-timed leap,
Raul Ibanez played the final out of the inning into an RBI
double.

The Fox cameras caught Halladay giving Cousins an earful. He
promptly gave up an RBI single to Juan Uribe.

“It’s part of the game,” a downcast Halladay said after the
game. “You have to be able to make a pitch on the next one.”

Suddenly it was 4-1, and Lincecum, who had not exactly dominated
the
Phillies’ lineup, looked that much
more difficult to beat. Halladay, shockingly, looked beaten.

“It’s obviously not what you prepare for,” Halladay said, “but
it’s part of it. You find out what you’re made of.”

The
Phillies had jumped on Lincecum,
driving a couple of balls to the warning track in the first inning.
Ryan Howard doubled to lead off the second, but he was stranded.
Carlos Ruiz homered to lead off the third, but the
Phillies were unable to take
advantage of Lincecum when he appeared vulnerable.

After Halladay singled, Shane Victorino grounded into a double
play. That loomed even larger when Placido Polanco stroked a
double. Chase Utley walked. Howard got ahead 2-0, then struck out
to end what could have been a big inning.

“I felt like we had a chance there in the third,” Manuel said,
“but we couldn’t get a big two-out hit.”

These things are subjective, of course. A Giants fan would say
that Lincecum got big outs when he needed them. He gave up a
two-run homer to Jayson Werth in the sixth, but struck out Howard,
Jimmy Rollins, and Ruiz to minimize the damage.

After their division series performances, Halladay and Lincecum
had the world expecting a scoreless tie going into extra innings.
Expectations were high, but not out of line with the historic games
the two men had delivered.

By any standard except their own, Halladay and Lincecum were
very good Saturday night. Take away Cody Ross, and Halladay was
exceptional. But really, you shouldn’t have to take away Cody
Ross.

Contact columnist Phil Sheridan at 215-854-2844 or
psheridan@phillynews.com. Read his recent work at
http://go.philly.com/philsheridan.