Halladay pitched five effective innings in his first start off the disabled list, Hunter Pence got him off the hook with a go-ahead, two-out single in the eighth inning and the Phillies beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-2 Tuesday night for their fourth straight victory.
"I feel good and I feel like I can contribute. If I didn't, I wouldn't have tried to pitch tonight," said Halladay, who had a successful rehab start Thursday for Clearwater and threw a bullpen session Saturday. "Anybody who likes to compete wants to be out there, regardless if you're 15 games down in the standings or 15 up."
The two-time Cy Young winner threw 80 pitches, allowing two runs and five hits with six strikeouts and no walks. He hadn't pitched for the Phillies since May 27 at St. Louis, when he faced 11 batters over two innings and gave up a grand slam to Yadier Molina during his 8-3 loss. He was diagnosed with a latissimus dorsi strain and missed 42 games.
"The big thing for me today was just coming in and being consistent with mechanics and trying to make pitches," the 35-year-old right-hander said. "As a pitcher, it's the same as a hitter, getting to where your body's in sync consistently. I felt there were times tonight where it was and times where I needed to be a little better consistently doing that."
The first two batters Halladay faced, Bobby Abreu and Mark Ellis, were called out on strikes by umpire Wally Bell. Abreu tossed his bat away after a 3-2 pitch and headed to first base, thinking he had walked. Ellis also had a few words for Bell before going back to the dugout. But the Dodgers opened the second inning with four straight hits and took a 2-1 lead with RBI singles by James Loney and Luis Cruz.
"We definitely had Halladay on the ropes, but we needed to get more out of that inning than two runs," said catcher A.J. Ellis, who lined into a double play after Cruz's hit. "But he was out there battling and he was really sharp. He's one of the game's best for a reason, and at times tonight he showed it."
The Phillies loaded the bases in the eighth when Ronald Belisario (3-1) walked Chase Utley with two outs, then hit Ryan Howard on the foot with a 1-2 pitch and plunked Carlos Ruiz on a full count. Pence greeted Kenley Jansen with a sharp single to center, scoring Utley and pinch runner John Mayberry Jr. and giving him a team-high 55 RBIs.
It was Jansen's first appearance since he was on the mound when San Diego's Everth Cabrera stole home for the tying run in the Dodgers' 7-6 loss on Saturday night. Jansen has five blown saves in 21 opportunities.
Stephen Fife pitched six sharp innings in his major league debut for the Dodgers. The bespectacled 25-year-old right-hander yielded a run and four hits, walked three and struck out one while throwing 90 pitches. He was promoted from Triple-A Albuquerque when Chad Billingsley went on the disabled list, retroactive to July 8, because of inflammation in his right elbow.
The Dodgers acquired Fife from Boston in a three-team trade that sent switch-hitting outfielder Trayvon Robinson to Seattle at the non-waiver trade deadline last year. He was 7-5 with a 4.53 ERA in 18 starts with Albuquerque.
"Today I watched some of his tape from some of his Albuquerque outings, and what I saw is exactly what we got -- a guy who competes and gives us a chance," A.J. Ellis said. "He did everything we asked of him, and more. He hung with them, and any nerves he might have had he didn't show it. It's a shame we couldn't get him that first career win tonight."
The Dodgers were clinging to a 2-1 lead in the sixth when Howard drew a one-out walk, advanced on a wild pitch and tried to score on a line-drive single by Pence. But Kemp made a one-hop throw to the plate, and Ellis stretched to his left to get the ball and made a lunging tag on Howard as he slid in head-first.
Kemp got another assist in the eighth, erasing Ruiz at third base for the third out after coming up throwing on Pence's clutch hit. But it wasn't enough to prevent the Dodgers' fourth straight loss and 19th in their past 25 games.
"We're just trying to get through this forest and see the light at the end," A.J. Ellis said. "We have to keep grinding. You can't dwell on the losses, just focus on the next day and have confidence and faith that the next day is going to start a winning streak."
NOTES: The Phillies freed up a roster spot for Halladay by optioning RHP Brian Sanches to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Sanches allowed seven runs, 12 hits and four homers over 6 1/3 innings in his six relief appearances. In addition, all four of his inherited baserunners scored. ... Halladay, who finished runner-up in last year's NL Cy Young voting to the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw, is four strikeouts away from 2,000 in his career. ... Wednesday's series finale matches 2008 AL Cy Young winner Cliff Lee against reigning NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw, who is 0-4 with a 4.95 ERA in seven regular-season starts against the Phillies. Lee is 1-6 with a 3.92 ERA in 15 starts this season, after going 17-8 last year.