PHILADELPHIA — The Phillies’ starting pitcher wore No. 34 on Monday night.
The name on the back of his jersey was Halladay.
But with the way he performed, there had to be a case of mistaken identity.
The pitcher threw 99 pitches and allowed seven runs and six hits in a little more than four innings.
That couldn’t be two-time Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay, could it?
Unfortunately for the Phillies, it was.
The New York Mets pounded Halladay and beat the Phillies 7-2 before 35,393 fans at Citizens Bank Park. The loss exacerbated what has been a disappointing start for the Phillies (2-5), who already find themselves four games behind the first-place Atlanta Braves in the National League East.
“Sometimes you’re the horse,” Halladay said, “and sometimes you’re the horse’s (behind). I’ve been a horse’s (behind) for a little while.”
Halladay is at the center of the Phillies’ troubles. His ERA is 14.73 after two starts. He has allowed 12 hits and 12 earned runs in 71/3 innings.
Halladay simply can’t make the baseball go where he wants it to go.
“For the most part, I got behind hitters,” Halladay said of his Monday troubles. “I’d get behind and make a pitch that I didn’t want to make. That’s where I was giving up the hits. It’s definitely my command. The more you force a ball to a spot, the more it goes away from there.”
Halladay’s performance was so alarming that two questions came to mind:
Is he hurt?
Can the Phillies continue to send him to the mound every fifth day if he doesn’t give the team even a slight chance of winning?
Halladay insisted he’s healthy.
“I feel like I could throw 200 pitches,” he said, “but I want to throw 200 good pitches.”
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said Halladay will remain in the rotation, but he admitted it’s hard to watch the pitcher flounder.
“He’s giving you everything he’s got,” Manuel said. “It’s kind of tough to watch. I pull for him.”
Halladay appears nothing like the pitcher who went a combined 40-16 with a 2.37 ERA in 2010-11.
On Monday, he threw mostly curveballs and changeups that measured in the 80s on the Citizens Bank Park scoreboard. His fastball topped out at 90 mph. Halladay lacked command of his cutter.
Mets catcher John Buck hit a 90 mph cutter on a 2-0 count well into the right-field stands to give New York a 3-0 second-inning lead.
Halladay worked hard against nearly every hitter. There were few easy outs.
It took Halladay nine pitches to get Mets starting pitcher Matt Harvey to fly out harmlessly to right field in the fourth inning.
“It’s tough,” Halladay said, “because you care about the game, you care about the fans, you care about your teammates and the organization. Everybody out there cares and wants (success) and you want it as bad as everybody.”
Halladay looked especially old when contrasted with the 24-year-old Harvey, who threw like the promising young power pitcher he is.
Harvey struck out nine and allowed three hits and a run in seven innings to improve to 2-0 this season.
Harvey struck out Ryan Howard swinging on a 98 mph fastball in the first inning. He struck out Michael Young swinging on an 89 mph slider in the fourth.
Halladay isn’t the Phillies’ only problem. The bullpen has allowed 12 of 13 inherited runners to score this season. Howard looks confused at the plate with a .148 batting average (4-for-27).
But right now, it is Halladay that remains the Phillies’ No. 1 concern.
The pitcher stood in the middle of the Phillies’ clubhouse after Monday’s game and spoke with the media at length about his performance.
He spoke of receiving a text after he left the game from his son Braden that told him he was still his son’s hero. That helped Halladay put things in perspective.
But what came through in the interview is that Halladay wants badly to succeed and that might be part of the problem.
“When you’re trying to find something, the more you’re grasping at it and the more you’re trying to find it, the harder it is to get,” Halladay said. “Especially when you want something so bad you’d do anything to get it. Sometimes, the best course of action is to prepare yourself and let it come to you.”
The joke among Phillies fans and media in Halladay’s first few seasons with the team was that he was so good he was like an unemotional robot programmed to be the game’s best pitcher.
On the mound and in the postgame interview, Halladay appeared all too human Monday night.
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