Halladay threw behind Moore's back an inning after Strasburg hit Utley in a marquee matchup that Philadelphia won over the Washington National 6-3 Wednesday. "It slipped," Halladay said of the alleged retaliatory pitch. "I mean, really, I think that's not necessarily the case but we do need to protect our guys to an extent. I'm not saying that's what happened... I don't think you want to do it but, you know, it wouldn't have been the worst thing had it got him after getting one of our good guys."
Strasburg, the Nationals' 24-year-old star, said he had trouble gripping the ball on a cold, windy day, which affected his off-speed pitches. The pitch he hit Utley with, however, was a fastball.
"I don't have any reason to throw at him, do I?" Strasburg said. "I mean, I don't understand why they would think I was throwing at him... It's spring training. If you're going to throw at someone or send a message in spring training, go ahead."
The two teams have a bit of beanball history; Philadelphia All-Star left-hander Cole Hamels hit Washington rookie Bryce Harper with a pitch last May, and then was suspended for five games after admitting the pitch was intentional. The Nationals went on to win their first division title last season, ending the Philadelphia's five-year run atop the division.
Halladay and the Phillies were on top Wednesday, though. The two-time Cy Young Award winner, trying to bounce back from an injury-plagued 2012 season, retired the first six batters he faced. In his third start of the spring, Halladay threw four shutout innings. He gave up two hits while walking one and striking out two.
After Michael Young's run-scoring single in the third, Strasburg hit Utley. Ryan Howard then drove in a run with a groundball to first. Strasburg was charged with two runs on five hits in 3 2/3 innings. He struck out six and walked one.
"I felt pretty good," Strasburg said. "I had a tough time getting on top of my curveball at the end. But it was tough conditions - I don't think I'll pitch in something like that any other time unless we're playing in Florida."
NOTES: Philadelphia catching prospect Tommy Joseph went 3-for-4 with a double. Joseph, acquired from San Francisco for Hunter Pence in July, is hitting .462 (6-for-13) with a home run and two doubles this spring... Outfielder Delmon Young returned to camp after having his surgically repaired right ankle examined by a Lose Angles doctor on Tuesday. Young was cleared to begin light baseball activities, including taking pre-game batting practice with his teammates and running on a treadmill. He is expected to begin the season on the disabled list and return sometime in mid-to-late April.