ATLANTA — The small things — like a deflected would-be double play grounder, three broken-bat singles, and a 3-2 cutter that did not hit its spot — a good offense can mask. Poor run support was something Roy Halladay was supposed to leave in Canada, where 12 years with the Toronto Blue Jays wasted countless efforts by the game's best pitcher.
Instead, a 3-2 Phillies loss to the Braves at Turner Field on Sunday represented the second straight Halladay complete game that resulted in a loss. In two games, the Phillies have scored three runs and Halladay has allowed five, four earned.
"It's tough," Halladay said. "It's definitely frustrating."
The Phillies had four hits — three of them by reserves Michael Martinez, John Mayberry Jr. and Pete Orr — off Tim Hudson and two Braves relievers. The top four hitters were 1 for 16, the only hit a single by Martinez. Jimmy Rollins, Placido Polanco and Ryan Howard were hitless. This, after Saturday produced three hits, left no doubt as to why the Phillies departed this city having lost the three-game series.
"There ain't a whole lot we can say," said Charlie Manuel, who decided to keep talking anyway.
"Hudson is a good pitcher, but we ... we didn't hit many balls hard. We skied balls up in the air. We hit balls on the ground. Mayberry hit his home run hard. We hit two or three balls hard. Outside of that, we didn't hurt him. We didn't get anything going."
That is a familiar refrain for the manager. The Phillies have scored three or fewer runs in more than half of their first 39 games. They still have the best record in the National League (25-14).
It hurts more when Halladay's bullets are wasted. This latest one was lost in the eighth, when Halladay threw a cutter to Dan Uggla that caught too much of the plate and the slumping Braves second baseman bashed it over the fence in left-center field.
Before Uggla stepped on home plate, Halladay had a new ball, kicked the dirt off the pitching rubber, and was already set to throw his next pitch. Halladay has faced 274 batters this season and allowed two of them to hit home runs.
This one came with particularly bad timing.
"It just wasn't a very good pitch," Halladay said. "I fell behind, made some close pitches, and then really left a ball over the plate. You know, especially there, I felt like we had to challenge him. You don't want to walk the leadoff guy."
Atlanta scored runs in the fourth and sixth innings and both were not without impeccable fortune.
Uggla hit a broken-bat single to right begin the fourth. The next batter, Eric Hinske, also broke his bat while floating a single into right field to move Uggla to third. With one out, Freddie Freeman hit a ball back to the mound that Halladay deflected with his glove. Rollins was shaded up the middle and said he would have turned an inning-ending double play. Instead, it was an infield single and a run scored.
"I wish I had the awareness to let a ball go when it's hit back to me, but I don't," Halladay said.
In the sixth, Uggla led off with a walk. Hinske again broke his bat but dunked the ball into right for another single to move Uggla 90 feet away from home. Freeman hit a sacrifice fly to left for the second run.
"You can't do a whole lot about the broken bats," Halladay said.
No, but the Phillies can do something about scoring for their ace. Mayberry's home run and two-walk effort was encouraging and he could see more time in right over Ben Francisco. Chase Utley is close to a return. But the other regulars have yet to achieve consistency.
"We have to score more runs," Manuel said. "We're going to find hits. We'll find somebody. We'll find people ... or we'll ... damn look until we find somebody. Seriously. That's how I look at it. We'll keep experimenting until we get people."