Unshakable on the mound, not even three-ball counts fazed Halladay.
He went to either 3-1 or 3-2 counts seven times, twice in the game’s first three batters alone, and always worked out of the trouble. Chris Coghlan tossed his bat aside on the Marlins’ first plate appearance of the night, thinking he’d drawn a walk, only to hear plate umpire Mike DiMuro call strike three.
Coghlan wasn’t pleased, and that was a theme for the Marlins throughout.
“I thought they were balls, that’s why I took them. But obviously they’re too close to take,” Coghlan said. “I don’t want to talk about the strike zone because that’s discrediting what he did.”
Hanley Ramirez had the same issue two batters later, stepping toward first after thinking a 3-1 pitch missed the zone. It hadn’t, DiMuro said, and Ramirez wound up grounding out.
That was just the start.
Jorge Cantu went to a 3-1 count in the second before striking out on a foul tip. Dan Uggla had a three-ball count before a flyoutr in the fifth, and Maybin added drama in the sixth.
Maybin showed bunt twice, drawing a small chorus of boos, and eventually worked his way ahead 3-1. He ended up hitting a hard shot to deep short, where Valdez fielded it on a hop and threw to Howard in time to beat Maybin by a half-step — umpire Tim Welke taking a big swing to indicate the out.
Halladay got another nice play in the eighth when Castro went to his knees to snare a sharp grounder off Cantu’s bat, recovering and throwing to first in plenty of time. When Cody Ross popped to short to end the eighth, Halladay showed no emotion, simply walking to the dugout with his head bowed a bit, tugging once on the left shoulder of his gray jersey.
“I was thinking, if somebody hit a ball close to me, I was going to do whatever it takes,” Castro said.
For the Marlins, Johnson threw a career-high 121 pitches in seven innings, giving up seven hits, one unearned run, one intentional walk and striking out six.
His night was stellar — and didn’t even come close to comparing to his counterpart.
“He’s the best right-hander in the game,” Johnson said, “and he kind of proved it.”
NOTES: Phillies 3B Placido Polanco (bruised left elbow) was sidelined again, Castro getting the call to start for the second straight night. Polanco is expected to undergo an MRI exam on Sunday to see if the problem is more serious than originally thought.
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