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.