Halladay attacked the Nationals with his unholy combination of cutters, sinkers and curves, allowing two runs in seven innings on 110 pitches. He threw 81 strikes. Eighty-one. The Nationals were game for the first six inning, scratching out two runs on six hits. But Halladay retired the final 11 batters he faced and struck out 10 overall.

He showed why Hairston thinks he’s the best of his generation.

“As a hitter, you hate to give him credit like that,” Hairston said. “But you don’t know what he’s going to throw. Sometimes, you think it’s going to sink and it cuts. Sometimes, it cuts when you think it’s going to sink. And he has that slow curveball. He can keep guys off balance.”

Halladay, Hairston said, is better now than ever. He won his first Cy Young in 2003 with Toronto, but he slowly changed and morphed into the pitcher he is now. His stuff is less electric, but the way he uses it is more unfair.

“The thing about it is, when he threw harder, it was never easy,” Hairston said. “But the ball was straighter. Now, he doesn’t throw anything straight. He figured out 92-93 is better than 97 straight. He’s doing it sinking and cutting. I know a couple years ago, Mariano Rivera helped him with his cutter at the All-Star Game. And I don’t really appreciate that. He’s tough enough.”

Coming into the game, Hairston was 2 for 25 against Halladay in his career. Thursday, he managed one hit after a remarkable at-bat. In the fourth, he fouled off eight pitches before he rolled the 13th pitch of the at-bat through the right side, a single that loaded the bases.

“Just fighting, scratching, clawing,” Hairston said. “I just wanted to make sure I fight and claw, really. I didn’t want to get to 13 pitches. I was hoping to get him the first pitch.”


John Lannan stumbled again against the Phillies in a 7-3 Nationals loss, which was preceeded by a meeting with the Nationals’ hitters.


Durham 4, Syracuse 3: Tim Milone allowed one run in seven innings on four hits and one walk, striking out 11. Roger Bernadina went 1 for 4.

Harrisburg 8, Bowie 6: Tyler Moor went 3 for 4 with a double and a triple. Shairon Martins allowed two earned runs in five innings on seven hits and three walks, striking out five.

Kinston 3, Potomac 1: The P-Nats managed three hits. Justin Bloxom went 1 for 4 with a double.

Hagerstown 9, Lexington 2: Bryce Harper went 1 for 3 with a walk and his seventh home run of the season. In 25 games, he’s slugging .702 with a .455 on-base percentage. Blake Kelso went 3 for 5, and he’s hitting .361.