The Washington Times - May 6, 2011, 12:07AM

PHILADELPHIA — Jerry Hairston Jr. has been a major league player for the last 14 years. In that time, he’s faced 826 different pitchers.

That volume of opponents doesn’t matter. Easily and without hesitation, Hairston said Thursday that Roy Halladay is the best he’s ever seen.

SEE RELATED:


“I’ve faced a lot of guys,” Hairston said. “And as a hitter, you hate to give a guy credit like that, but you don’t know what he’s going to throw. Sometimes you think it’s going to sink when it cuts and you think it’s going to cut and it sinks. Then he has that slow curveball to keep guys off balance. For righties, he’s pretty tough. Knowing that, you’ve just got to fight.”

Hairston did just that in a 13-pitch at-bat in the fourth inning that resulted in a single to right field. Fouling off eight of those 13 pitches, Hairston was able to pick up just his third hit in 28 at-bats in his career against Halladay. 

The Nationals 7-3 loss Thursday night was less about Halladay than it was about John Lannan’s somewhat unbelievably bad career against the Phillies (he’s now 0-10 in 13 starts and lasted just two innings on Thursday) but once the Nationals had allowed Philadelphia a six-run lead in the third inning, coming back against Halladay was nearly impossible.

Halladay is now 10-1 with a 2.00 ERA and 83 strikeouts against the Nationals in 12 career starts. The two runs (and six hits) the Nationals got off him on Thursday actually represented a significant improvement from their most recent meetings.

In fact, Hairston admitted that Halladay is even better now than he was when he was with the Blue Jays.

“The thing about it is, when he threw harder, it was never easy, but the ball was straighter,” Hairston said. “Now, he doesn’t throw anything straight. He’s figured out that 92-93 is better than 97 straight. He’s able to sink it and cut it and he’s tough.

“I know a couple of years ago, Mariano Rivera helped him with his cutter at the All-Star game and I don’t really appreciate that. He was tough enough.”

The good news for the Nationals is they now have a 3 1/2 week reprieve from facing the Phillies’ pitching staff. The teams won’t see each other again until a three-game series from May 30-June 1 in Washington.

– With Lannan lasting just two innings, the Nationals patched together the rest of the game with their bullpen, using Brian Broderick (1 IP), Todd Coffey (2 IP), Henry Rodriguez (2 IP) and Doug Slaten (1 IP) to finish the game.

They were almost forced to shorten Coffey’s outing as well when the right-hander got a bloody nose after the second batter he faced, Placido Polanco, sent a single past Coffey’s glove and into center field.

Coffey was attended to on the field by Nationals’ trainer Lee Kuntz, who — to put it not-so-eloquently — shoved some gauze and cotton up there to stop the bleeding. Coffey was able to go 1 2/3 more innings and, while allowing a solo home run to Raul Ibanez, also picked up a career-high five strikeouts.

While Coffey said he has experienced bloody noses before, even once while warming up in the bullpen, he’d never before gotten one while on the mound in a game. Coffey joked that he wasn’t sure if he could doctor the ball with his blood but highlighted the correlation between the bloody nose and the strikeouts in this tweet after the game.