WASHINGTON, D.C. — As debuts go, the one for Roy Halladay was hard to beat.
New team, new league, new uniform, but in the end it was a familiar story — one start, one win as Halladay and his new Philadelphia Phillies teammates enjoyed an 11-1 laugher over the downtrodden Washington Nationals on a beautiful Monday afternoon.
Even the crowd seemed to back Halladay and his mates as the vocal Philly faithful seemed to outnumber the Nats’ fans of the 41,290 who were in attendance.
“Halladay was Halladay, he gave us the opportunity to go out and put up some runs,” Ryan Howard, the Phillies giant first baseman said. “He’s been doing what he’s been doing his entire career. He settled down (after a 19-pitch, one run first) and made pitches.”
Overall, Halladay went seven strong, allowed the one run on six hits, walked two and struck out nine. He made 88 pitches, 59 of them strikes.
But it wasn’t just another day at the office for the good Doctor.
It was his first step on his new career, one where he is surrounded by gifted players such as Howard and one that he fully expects to end with a post-season and World Series berth.
As Dorothy would say: “Toto, we’re not in Toronto any more.”
It was the eighth consecutive opening day start for Halladay but it was unlike any of the previous seven he made in a Blue Jays uniform.
“It was a lot different,” he said. “It’s been fun for me and nothing against Toronto but it kind of gives you a renewed energy coming over here and the guys have been great. It’s obviously a team that wants to win and can win so it’s fun for me. You feel like you’re out there just chipping in.”
That may be a shot at his old club.
It’s certainly in stark contrast to his Blue Jays days where at times it seemed like all the fortunes and all the responsibilities rested on his large shoulder. Now, everywhere he glances in the Phillies clubhouse he sees stars instead of struggles.
The nerves Monday, he maintained, were under control even though he gave up a single on his first pitch and following a strikeout, a RBI double to Ryan Zimmerman.
“I think spring training was big for me, I got a lot of that out of the way,” he said of being able to settle in. “Really it just sort of becomes a normal start, you just go out there and be aggressive.
“It wasn’t as strange (a feeling) as I would have thought. I felt pretty comfortable early on. It felt very normal for me.”
Pitching for the Phillies, though, Halladay can count on the offence to show up game in and game out. On Monday, it arrived in the fourth when they posted a five-spot on the board.
“Again with this team you feel like early on you minimize (the runs) give your team a chance, try and have quick innings,” he said. “It almost feels like it’s a matter of time (before the runs show up). It’s a nice feeling to go out there and know that if you give up a run in the first you still have a good chance to win the game.”
If there was a marked difference Monday, it was just in knowing where it all may lead.
“I think everybody in here has that same excitement, it’s a chance to go out and play for a championship and I think that’s what every player wants to do,” he said. “Feeling like you have a chance, it’s a good feeling. Knowing that there’s so many guys behind you that are chipping in, doing their jobs, it takes a lot of the pressure off.”
Again, another subtle shot.
Earlier, in the Phillies clubhouse at Nationals Park, veteran shortstop Jimmy Rollins was in the locker next to Halladay.
“I told him to have a great year and he said the same to me,” Rollins said of their brief pre-game conversation.
On Monday, Halladay took the first step towards reaching that goal.