Roy Halladay began to resemble his former Cy Young-winning self in his last start. The Philadelphia Phillies hope he continues his ace-like ways as they try to end a losing streak.
Halladay and the Phillies look to avoid a fifth straight loss when they host the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday night.
Halladay won Cy Young Awards in 2003 and 2010, and finished second in 2011, but he fought injuries last year and had struggled mightily through his first two starts this season. He had been tagged for 12 runs and 12 hits, not lasting past the fourth inning in either outing.
Halladay turned it around Sunday in a 2-1 win over Miami, allowing one run and five hits in eight innings. He nearly halved his ERA (14.73 to 7.63) and earned career victory No. 200 - the first pitcher to reach that milestone in a Phillies uniform since Steve Carlton in 1978.
"More than anything, I had been putting a lot of pressure on myself," said Halladay, who is 4-3 with a 2.57 ERA in eight career starts against St. Louis, including the postseason. "In the past I tried to control too much and do too much and worry about too much. Today the plan was simpler - execute pitches one at a time, and not worry about what's going on, and it made a big difference."
Now, the Phillies (6-10) get to see if Halladay is returning to form or if his performance was more a result of facing the lowly Marlins and the majors' worst offense.
The Cardinals (9-6) will present a far stiffer challenge, and they bounced back from their own poor offensive performance to beat Philadelphia 4-3 in Thursday's series opener. One night after getting only one hit – a Carlos Beltran double – in a 5-0 loss at Pittsburgh, St. Louis had seven hits, which was enough to beat the Phillies.
Beltran hit the tiebreaking homer in the eighth inning and had his first multi-hit game since April 6 to help St. Louis to its sixth win in eight contests. Yadier Molina added three hits and two RBIs for the Cardinals.
"He had a great night for us," manager Mike Matheny said of Beltran. "It's not easy to hit the ball out the other way, but we've had no bigger hit this season."
Beltran has had great success against Halladay, batting .326 with three homers and 11 RBIs in 46 at-bats. He also enjoys hitting at Citizens Bank Park, where he has 12 homers.
"It's a good ballpark to hit in," Beltran said. "Anything can happen if you hit the ball good. I hit it pretty good but I never thought it was going to leave the ballpark."
Jaime Garcia (1-0, 1.86) takes the mound for the Cardinals. Garcia has been stellar this season, allowing four runs in 19 1-3 innings over three starts. He pitched seven scoreless innings against Milwaukee on Sunday, but the bullpen faltered in an eventual 4-3 loss.
He's 2-3 with a 2.30 ERA in six career starts against Philadelphia, including a loss in the 2011 playoffs.
Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard are a combined 3 for 26 (.115) against the left-hander.