But Halladay, who allowed four hits and one run in six innings in a 6-4 victory over the Marlins at Citizens Bank Park, could have made his final start at home for the Phillies. He is a free agent following the season, and it is far from a certainty he will return. He has struggled the past two seasons, he had right shoulder surgery in May and he turns 37 next May, as he pitches with less velocity and command than he has had in the past.
"Unfortunately that's out of my control," he said. "I'm going to continue to play as hard as I can for the organization and my teammates, and hopefully I have a chance to pitch again. But, you know, I can't worry about things that are out of my control."
"It did not dawn on me," Chase Utley said. "I hope that's not the case."
Halladay's performance Tuesday was far from vintage, but it was something he could take as a positive with two starts remaining.
But what did his stat line mean? The Marlins entered the night with a .627 OPS, which is the lowest mark in baseball since the Blue Jays had a .617 OPS in 1981. The Marlins have also averaged just 3.21 runs per game, which is the third-lowest mark in baseball since 1980. Only the 1981 Blue Jays (3.10) and 2010 Mariners (3.17) averaged fewer.
That lack of firepower could not have hurt Halladay, whose fastball topped at 87 mph in the first inning. Halladay also continued to struggle with command. He hit Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton with a pitch in the fourth inning. Halladay has hit 10 batters in 61 2/3 innings this season after hitting 71 in 2,687 1/3 innings from 1998-2012. He also issued three walks to increase his season total to 34. He is averaging 4.96 walks per nine innings after averaging 1.86 walks per nine innings from 1998-2012.
"The pitches where I'm hitting guys, I'm trying to open up the outer half, and when I'm not exactly pinpointing where I want, that's the result," Halladay said. "Chase told me in the winter I need to hit more guys. So I'm doing it."
But how much more can the Phillies learn in Halladay's final two starts to know whether or not they want to re-sign him in the offseason?
And if they do, how much are they willing to risk in salary?
"That's the unknown," Phillies interim manager Ryne Sandberg said, when asked what Halladay might be like next season. "You would think getting these innings under his belt, that's the first good sign. Have a normal offseason and starting up his throwing program like normal, it's hard to tell. I'd be optimistic that he could gain some velocity."
"He's improving," Utley said. "He's coming off surgery with a new arm slot. It's something he has to get used to. It seems like his command is getting better. I'm a true believer in that the more reps he gets, the more comfortable he gets with the new arm slot, the more confident he'll be on the mound."
The Phillies took a 3-0 lead in the third inning. Cesar Hernandez singled up the middle and Jimmy Rollins dropped a ball down the right-field line to put runners on first and second with one out. Utley laced a single to left field to score Hernandez to make it 1-0. Carlos Ruiz then singled to center to score Rollins and Utley to make it 3-0.
Ruiz remains one of the hottest hitters in baseball since late July. From July 30 through Monday, Ruiz's .908 on-base-plus-slugging percentage is ranked 20th out of 174 qualifying hitters in baseball.
Utley ripped a three-run home run to right field in the fifth to hand the Phillies a 6-1 lead. It was the 217th homer of his career, which ties him with Cy Williams for seventh place on the franchise list.
But regardless of what happens offensively on the nights Halladay pitches, he remains the story. He is one of the greatest pitchers of his generation, and he is trying to beat the odds and show that a 36-year-old pitcher with a ton of mileage on his arm can bounce back from shoulder surgery.
"I'm looking forward to my next two starts," he said. "I think I would've been really frustrated if I hadn't gotten a chance to come back at all. So just coming back and knowing that every time I throw there's zero pain, which is, for me, a great feeling. There's days when the location may not be good or the ball's not coming out of my hand with the same life as it does other days. That's all part of coming back from an injury. No, I am very grateful for the opportunity to come back and pitch. I won't be disappointed at the end, because I was fortunately given that chance to come back and pitch."