Roy Halladay's remarkable ability to focus was immediately challenged, and it was done so one paper cut at a time.
The annoyances began Friday night when the first two Texas Rangers he faced - Elvis Andrus and Mitch Moreland - singled through the infield. Reading the stoic Halladay's body language is challenging, but he gave home plate umpire Andy Fletcher a few quick glances to illustrate he wasn't happy with his strike zone.
Many other pitchers would have unraveled when Andrus stole home on a double steal. Not Halladay. At that point, he pretty much told the Rangers enough was enough, and the Phillies went on to a 3-2 win at Citizens Bank Park. Halladay simply refused to become distracted by the early goings-on.
"I really just tried to stay the same," he said. "I think after the second or third inning, it [the umpiring] was pretty consistent. You just stay there. You really can't do a whole lot. If they're close, you should just consistently be there. I think sometimes the more you hit that spot, hopefully you'll get those pitches later. They were definitely close pitches and we felt like they were strikes, but you just stay there. You don't change."
Halladay gave the Phillies eight strong innings, allowing six hits and striking out seven, before Ryan Madson finished the task with his 12th consecutive inning of scoreless relief to get his eighth save in eight opportunities.
For this night, at least, the Halladay-Madson tandem threw a coat of fresh paint over the offensive misery. The Phillies won even though they had no more than five hits for the sixth time in the last seven games. They have scored 13 runs in their last seven games, and it was the first time they had scored more than two runs since Saturday.
The Phillies had four hits, two of them home runs, one by Ben Francisco and the other by Raul Ibanez. But Ryan Howard went hitless again and has none in his last 23 at-bats.
"It seems like when he hits the ball into a shift, he's hitting the ball right at the guy," manager Charlie Manuel said. "Of course, he's striking out. I don't think he's really seeing the ball real good right now."
In the second inning, when Francisco sent a C.J. Wilson pitch into the left-field seats, the Phillies had their first two-run inning since they scored a pair in the sixth inning of Sunday's game at Atlanta. It was a span covering 40 innings.
Among the many Phillies who appear to be squeezing the bat handles into sawdust out of frustration, Francisco has been a primary exhibit. He went into the game with four hits in his previous 43 at-bats. His homer was his first extra-base hit since April 27. Manuel found him a seat on the bench and turned right field over to John Mayberry Jr. and Ross Gload before giving Francisco a crack at the lefthanded Wilson.
"That's baseball," said Francisco, who went into the game hitting .189 against lefties. "But I feel good now. I've been working on my swing."
With Shane Victorino on the disabled list and after Thursday's adventurous play in center by Michael Martinez, Manuel put Mayberry in center. Francisco returned to right partly because Manuel doesn't want to force-feed Domonic Brown to lefthanded pitching.
"He has enough talent to help you at times, so I'd never say he can't be [an everyday player]," Manuel said before the game. "But let me put it like this: When you're that kind of player, you have to do enough to stay in the lineup."
Ibanez, the Phillie most familiar with Wilson's stuff, gave the Phils a 3-1 lead when he pounded a homer to deep right-center in the fourth. Ibanez went into the game 2 for 19 with seven strikeouts against Wilson. Since the start of the 2010 season, Texas was 30-12 in Wilson's starts. During that span, the 30 wins are the most by any team when an individual pitcher starts.
Meanwhile, the resumé Halladay had against the Rangers during his years in the American League was far from impressive. In 20 previous appearances against Texas - 19 of them starts - he was 7-7 with a 5.36 ERA. Halladay also was trying to avoid his third straight loss. He pitched eight-inning games in his previous two starts.