The objective was to spot something near the center of the plate and not miss it, which doesn't exactly reinvent the game. Yet the Yankees executed to near-perfection, putting a six-run pounding on the ace and posting an 8-3 victory over the Phillies in a rematch of last year's World Series, won by New York in six games.
Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira each homered off Halladay in support of CC Sabathia, who stood tallest in the marquee pairing of former American League Cy Young Award winners.
- 134 wins
- 118 wins
"Against a tough guy like that, all you're really doing is looking for a pitch in the middle of the plate," Swisher said of Halladay. "We didn't swing at a lot of balls out of the zone today. I think that's a big key. If we can swing at balls on the plate, we do a pretty good job."
Sabathia was the beneficiary, surviving a troublesome three-run fourth inning in which his pitching hand was struck by a batted ball. Sabathia stayed in the game after Chase Utley's comebacker and escaped a bases-loaded jam in the fifth, notching his third straight win. He later said he couldn't wait to get his hitters back to the plate.
"We've got a good offense," Sabathia said. "[Halladay] has pitched well against us a lot in the past, but guys have been swinging the bat well. Alex [Rodriguez] is out, but Swish has picked up the slack. Curtis hit a big home run. We've got a pretty good team."
The Yankees won their ninth straight in the Bronx and improved to a season-high 18 games over .500. While Halladay said his game "wasn't good by any standards," the Yankees weren't rushing to the bat rack feeling like they'd caught a break.
"I didn't hear that from anyone," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I'd have to watch closely, but it just looked like our guys were as patient as you could be off Roy Halladay. It's not like he's going to be 2-0 and 3-1 very often. But when he made a mistake, they didn't miss it."
Hitting coach Kevin Long had numbers to back that up. Long claimed the Yankees had only four "chases" of pitches out of the strike zone against Halladay on Tuesday; typically, the Yankees chased 12-20 pitches against Halladay when he was with the Blue Jays, Long said.
"We really were disciplined," Long said. "We really swung at strikes, and we didn't miss a whole lot when he made pitches or missed in the middle of the plate. I'm sure if you asked him, he'd say he didn't have his best stuff, and you could see that. But you've got to take advantage of a guy when a situation like that presents itself, and we did."
Brett Gardner's stand-up two-run triple opened scoring against Halladay in the second inning, and Granderson belted a solo homer, his fifth, in the third, reaching the second deck in right field. Swisher stroked his 11th homer later in the third inning, and Teixeira padded the lead in the fifth, clanging a solo blast, his 10th, off the right-field foul pole.
"I made mistakes early on that put us in an early hole," Halladay said. "You can't do that against a good pitcher. I missed with location early on. That was the toughest part for me -- I knew I was missing. I didn't get away with many of them."
It was the most earned runs the Yankees had scored against Halladay since April 30, 2000, when he also gave up six. A six-time All-Star, Halladay was also hit hard in his other start this season against an AL East club, allowing seven runs (six earned) in a loss to the Red Sox on May 23.
Sabathia was credited with the victory against the Phillies that eluded him last October, when he took a loss against Philadelphia in Game 1 of the World Series and a no-decision when the bullpen allowed a lead to fritter away in New York's Game 4 victory.
Sabathia started sharply on Tuesday, striking out six Phillies through the first three innings, but his evening took a turn on Utley's fourth-inning comebacker, a ball that opened up the frame and probably would have been fielded by shortstop Derek Jeter.
"For the first three innings, he was as sharp as we've seen him all year, and then he gets hit in the hand," Girardi said of Sabathia. "I always wonder how that affects a guy. I can't tell you, and you probably won't get that out of him, either."
Indeed, Sabathia stayed mum, insisting it had not affected him -- even after Girardi visited the mound, admonishing him to "keep your big mitts out of the way," in the manager's words. After the brief visit, Sabathia allowed a single and drilled Ryan Howard with a 1-2 pitch that catcher Francisco Cervelli said was his fault, setting up RBI singles by Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez.
Sabathia then blanked and did not cover first base on a run-scoring Ben Francisco fielder's choice, but he was able to close the damage there, lasting seven innings and scattering eight Phillies hits to defeat a team other than the Orioles for the first time since April 16.
"He bent but didn't break," Swisher said. "He was in the corner, getting pounded on a little bit, and he fought his way out. That's big, to have that character and will to fight to get out of it. That's why he's our No. 1."
Cervelli added a two-run single in the seventh off reliever David Herndon. No longer seeing Halladay on the mound was still a comforting sight for the Yankees, who have never relished being carved up by the good Doc. Yet they aren't about to count on the fact that they don't have to deal with that same issue again this year.
"I wouldn't say that -- it's not over yet," Long said. "We may face him again. But it's nice not to see him next week, or the week after, or next month. We'll take it."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.