Roy Halladay is untouchable.
As if it wasn't already, that's done, decided and indelible after tonight.
Problematic for hitters and off-limits for flak, Halladay (15-5) transcends convention. Even in defeat, the Phillies' (78-42) 3-2 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks (69-53). Even when disconcerting, Halladay's first troubling sign of mortality.
You defer to nine-deep length and consistency. To his domination, and frequency.
And you normally blast someone who unravels like he did tonight.
But that's the Halladay Paradox: There's no Nintendo wall on his range; Halladay's seven complete games are second-most in baseball to Jered Weaver's eight. And his ceiling is comparably absurd; only six pitchers—Cliff Lee (16), Weaver (15), C.C. Sabathia (15), Justin Verlander (14), Tommy Hanson (14) and Halladay—have thrown one game with 14-plus strikeouts; Halladay broached his single-game career-high of 14 tonight for the second time this season.
Yet those aren't his highlights.
What matters is that he blew the game. And nobody cared.
Instead, the Citizen's Bank Park crowd found a way to appreciate.
Whether he fatigued or just got beat, Halladay alone was culpable for the 2-1 lead that crumbled in the ninth. Halladay allowed Lyle Overbay's go-ahead double. Halladay coughed up singles to Justin Upton and Miguel Montero—the two runs that put the Diamondbacks ahead—to start the frame. Halladay slipped in the second, giving Arizona the 1-0 lead on, coincidentally, an Overbay single that scored Chris Young.
Does Roy Halladay deserve a pass for tonight's loss?
That's not on Charlie Manuel, who trusts Halladay's judgment and reads his demeanor. It's possible Halladay was gassed—he's now thrown an NL-most 184.2 innings and third-most 2,646 pitches. But even if he was, that's no excuse.
Halladay should've in that case signaled as much to Manuel, green-lighting the move everyone was mulling: bringing in Antonio Bastardo or Ryan Madson to put the fork in it. One word, waive or walk, and Manuel turns to the tandem that's closed 30-of-31 games without incident.
He didn't, leaving us to assume he wasn't.
In that case: Overbay got one over on Halladay. Period.
Phillie hitters aren't to blame either. Sure, you demand more from Jimmy Rollins than whiffing for a 1-of-5 night and a game-ending strikeout with Carlos Ruiz in scoring position. Same goes for Shane Victorino's 1-of-4, an off-night for the guy jockeying for unofficial team offensive MVP with Ryan Howard (who, for record, posted an o-fer in three at-bats with two strikeouts).
Still, what they pieced together—Rollins singled in the fifth, when Victorino shot a zip-liner over the right field wall for the lead—Halladay was expected to shield. Even if his 2-of-3 night topped everyone else's but Chase Utley's 3-of-4. Underwhelming or unacceptable in the grander scheme, it should've clinched a win tonight.
But it didn't. Even if only for tonight, Halladay couldn't ice it.
Still, seemingly and strangely, it didn't matter. As the pitches hummed a full-count cadence—strike, ball, ball, ball, strike—fans joined the chorus. They rose for what would be Halladay's 122nd, and last, toss.
A standing O for the guy who should've been sat, wasn't and sunk the home crowd's team.
That's the beauty amid what would for anyone else be calamity. He's just too good.
Vague words like "good" are usually faux pas. But you can use it for Halladay, because every meaning—single-game dominant, multi-game consistent, full-season longevity; powerful and finesse; unpredictable and unhittable—applies.
Even after tonight. You know it doesn't matter.
You know he'll crank it in the postseason. His arm might die like Cole Hamels' did this week, and his mojo might fade like Cliff Lee's did last year. But Halladay will endure.
Better: He'll excel.
That goes for the Reds (3.86), Braves (3.00 ERA on season) and Cardinals (1.50), playoff-bound teams who've known, and now fear, him. Even anomalies like Milwaukee (0-1, 8.10 ERA in only start) and Colorado (1-0, 5.14 in only start) won't haunt Halladay in October.
That's the confidence he's instilled. That's how many passes he's earned.
That's untouchable, personified.
That's shorthand for Halladay.