SAN FRANCISCO — The 88-m.p.h. cutter to Aubrey Huff was too far inside, Marty Foster said, and Huff trotted to first base. Roy Halladay snatched the throw from Carlos Ruiz and didn't flinch. His eyes were focused on Foster, the home-plate umpire, in the fifth inning of Monday's 5-2 Phillies win over the San Francisco Giants.
Foster noticed the death stare. He said something to Halladay, who barked back. Then Halladay pointed to make his anger totally clear. It was a brief exchange, one Halladay later claimed was not directed at Foster. But that was the pitcher's way of being diplomatic.
Five pitches later, Halladay threw an 87-m.p.h. cutter outside and Foster rung up Brandon Belt on a generous strike-three call. Halladay marched off the mound and looked straight ahead. His demands had been heard.
Having conquered the umpire, Halladay promptly took complete control of the game. He needed only 24 pitches to set aside the Giants in the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings. A night that once appeared mediocre resulted in more Halladay dominance.
"It might be OK to get mad, as long as you can control yourself," Charlie Manuel said. "Halladay does every bit of that."
The Phillies started their season-long, 10-game West Coast trip with Halladay pitching behind an offense that handed him an early lead. That's as good as any guarantee.
When the seventh inning began, Mike Stutes and Antonio Bastardo were warming in the bullpen. Halladay was at 94 pitches. Stutes figured he could see work.
"Then I look up and there's two outs," he said.
Halladay's stuff was erratic at times, but he improved as the game aged. After navigating the fifth and his irritation with Foster, he threw nine pitches in the sixth inning, six in the seventh, and nine in the eighth.
His ERA actually climbed 57 points to 1.17, even with the stellar eight-inning outing. That's how good his 2012 has been.
"Really, all three starts of the year I've just felt better later on," Halladay said. "I've felt the rhythm and mechanics were better."
At 10:33 p.m. Eastern time, Halladay stepped on the mound at AT&T Park, and it wasn't unreasonable to think everyone watching in Philadelphia could go to sleep early. For the first time in three years, two pitchers with multiple Cy Young Awards to their names faced one another.
Thirty pitches into the game, a battered Tim Lincecum finally had completed the first inning and the Phillies led, 4-0. Hunter Pence, Shane Victorino, and Laynce Nix delivered run-scoring hits. It had been five years and nine starts since the Phillies had scored four or more runs against the diminutive Giants ace.
Lincecum's fastball did not have its usual juice, nor did he use it as often as usual. But his defense, specifically centerfielder Angel Pagan, did him no favors. Pagan called off Melky Cabrera only to allow a Placido Polanco fly ball to drop in between them for a double. Three batters later, Victorino skied one to center that Pagan read poorly, and it fell in for a run-scoring single.
"We were hitting them where they weren't," Manuel said. "That's how the game goes sometimes."
And sometimes there are disagreements with the umpiring. Manuel said Halladay will be professional about any disputes. The pitcher showed more emotion than usual on the mound. When his night was done, Halladay said he watched video of the pitches he thought were close. He admitted Foster had made the correct calls.
Halladay appeared to clearly point at Foster, but later he said it was directed at Ruiz because they had a miscommunication. But the catcher and pitcher are rarely at odds, especially in public.
"The tough part is you're frustrated at yourself when you don't make pitches you want to make," Halladay said. "Usually that gets me more than the umpires."
Halladay was upset in the first inning at a Foster call. After burying a splitter in the dirt to fan Brandon Crawford and leaving the bases loaded in the first inning, he screamed into the crisp San Francisco air.
Still peeved in the second, he stared at Foster on his way to the dugout after a brisk seven-pitch inning. Halladay figured his margin for error to be slimmer than usual, especially with Lincecum on the other side. Halladay had not beaten the Giants in the regular season until Monday. Now, the only team in baseball he's yet to defeat in his 15-year career is the Phillies.
A veritable offensive explosion against Lincecum permitted some Halladay mistakes. With the Giants trailing by three in the fourth, Pagan smashed a Halladay splitter deep to right. Pence crashed into the wall, banged his head, and spun around with the ball in his glove. It saved a run and maybe more.
There were no histrionics from closer Jonathan Papelbon when he saved the victory. Halladay handed him a three-run lead, and he has quite the way of eliminating drama.