If I would have told you that Roy Halladay would have made history in his first start for the Phillies in 2013, you'd probably be jumping for joy, thinking that the veteran right-hander would throw his second career perfect game, or that he'd rack up 20 strikeouts or something.
The truth, however, is far more bizarre. Not only was Halladay wildly imperfect – he allowed five runs on six hits (two home runs) and three walks in 3.1 innings of work – but he also seemed to have no issue setting down Braves hitters via the strikeout. Of the ten outs he recoded, nine of them came by way of the K. The first out he recorded that didn't come from a strikeout occurred in the bottom of the third, when Atlanta third baseman Juan Francisco grounded out to first to end the inning.
Typically, when a pitcher has nine strikeouts through three innings, you can safely assume that he is in some sort of groove, where the opposing team is just unable to do much of anything against him. Unfortunately for Halladay, the exact opposite held true. The Braves jumped out to an early lead, thanks to a two-run homer by Justin Upton and an RBI single from Francisco in the first, which pretty much was a nail in the coffin for Doc and the Phillies. In between striking out the side, Roy walked a pair and allowed three hits. That dog won't hunt.
He pitched a perfect second inning, and was able to pitch around a pair of base-runners in the third to give the fans some hope that he just had a rough first inning. That proved not to be the case, as Halladay allowed a homer from Braves catcher Evan Gattis to lead off the fourth. Two batters later, he was done, with one of the most bizarre lines that you'll ever see: 95 pitches (55 strikes), 5 ER, 6 H, 3 BB, 9 K.
That strange line is what led to history being made in Atlanta on Wednesday, as Doc became the first starter ever to strike out nine batters in 3.1 innings of work. That little tidbit comes courtesy of Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
It's not the kind of history that you want to be known for, that's for sure. While Doc did at times look in total control, his start in Atlanta didn't really answer any questions. He had a bad first inning – which isn't uncommon for him – but he settled into a groove before getting pulled in the fourth after he allowed two more runs.
The silver lining to all of this – if there is one – is that he still managed to strike out nine hitters in a shade over three innings of work, while hitting 90-91MPH on the gun with some frequency. Say what you want about the five ER that he allowed, but nine Ks in less than four innings is pretty impressive. The rest of his start, not so much.
Time will tell as to whether or not Roy is cooked or not, but you have to be somewhat encouraged by the fact that he seems to be figuring out how to live without his fastball, as all of his strikeouts did come on breaking pitches. His cutter was his bread and butter for so many years, but if he wants to get back to his old winning ways, he's going to need to live on a diet of breaking balls and off-speed pitches.
After Cole Hamels' rough start on Monday, the last thing that anyone wanted to see was Roy Halladay get knocked around by the high-powered Braves offense. The good news is that it is only one start, so it's entirely possible that Roy will be right as rain the next time out. It might not be that likely, but it's possible. Otherwise, it's going to be a long season for the former Ace.