Halladay surrendered seven runs (six earned) in 5 2/3 innings in a loss to Boston, 8-3, at Citizens Bank Park on Sunday, his second consecutive defeat and the first time he did not last six innings since Aug. 19, 2009.
That start, too, was against the Red Sox, a team Halladay has familiarity with after spending 10 years with the Blue Jays. He is now 14-15 against Boston in his career, and it clearly was undaunted by the former Cy Young Award winner.
"A couple things didn't go the way I wanted to early," Halladay said. "A couple mistakes and a good lineup and some balls that find the right spots, and the next thing you know you're looking at a hole."
A night after managing only one hit against Daisuke Matsuzaka, Philadelphia was held to just five hits by Boston veteran Tim Wakefield, who gave up no runs and one walk in eight innings.
Wakefield, who was bumped into the rotation after Josh Beckett was placed on the disabled list this week, used his fluttering knuckleball to contrast the hard-throwing Matsuzaka the night before. Each style was equally effective.
"I felt like I had a pretty good feel of everything today," Wakefield said, "and our offense made my job a lot easier today scoring a lot of runs off Halladay today."
Chase Utley went 2-for-3 with a triple, but the Phillies went down softly until tacking on three runs in the ninth. Wakefield forced 16 flyouts, most of them weak popups to the infield or catcher.
"They haven't seen [a knuckleballer] since he pitched against us last year," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "When you haven't seen it, basically what we were doing was popping it up. It wasn't like we were striking out a lot, we were popping balls in the air, and at times, we weren't very aggressive with it."
The Red Sox got on the board in the second inning after a leadoff triple by Kevin Youkilis and an RBI groundout by J.D. Drew. But the real damage was done in the sixth, when Boston tacked on four runs on five hits against Halladay -- the most hits given up by the right-hander in an inning since Aug. 24, 2009.
It was then that Halladay's sharp sinker appeared to flatten and rise, a recipe for disaster against an experienced lineup like Boston. The ground balls that he had been inducing (he finished with 14 ground-ball outs) were turning into line drives and singles.
"That's where the game kind of got out of hand," Halladay said. "The pitches that really cost me were in the sixth. The game got opened up."
It was also then that Halladay -- who threw 132 pitches on Tuesday -- didn't appear to be his normal, crisp self, raising questions about whether his rising pitch count is beginning to takes its toll. He was lifted after 99 pitches Sunday, the first time he's thrown fewer than 100 since Opening Day.
But asked if last start had any affect on his arm, Halladay quickly responded in defiance.
"None," he said. "I just didn't make good pitches, that's the bottom line. It's got nothing to do with anything before today. I just didn't put a couple balls in the right spots."
The Phillies said they would closely monitor his pitch count and also his body manners on the mound, but Halladay -- who has thrown four complete games already this year -- is unlike most starting pitchers because of his durability.
"I think you prepare yourself all winter to handle the workload," Halladay said. "That's your job as a starting pitcher. I feel like I've done that and I feel good going out there. Obviously people are going to say what they're going to say. But, from the horse's mouth, it didn't affect me. It was a matter of not making good pitches, and that's the bottom line."
Manuel, too, was asked if Halladay's recent workload meant anything on Sunday and answered resoundingly.
"Not a [darn] thing," Manuel said. "Every guy on our staff is different. He's different than the other four. Every one has a way of pitching and there are areas in the game that you watch them, that's what I think."
The Phillies' struggles in Interleague Play have appeared to carry over into another season. The loss to Boston prolongs Philadelphia's drought without an Interleague series win at home since 2007.
The Phillies have also lost three straight starts by Halladay, and four of the past six.
"I've obviously had games where I haven't pitched well before," Halladay said. "It's a matter of getting back to what you do. I didn't feel like we were far off today. It's part of the game, those things happen."