Roberts, who died Thursday morning at 83, started 609 games in his 19-year Hall of Fame career. He threw 305 complete games, which is an eye-popping number today. Halladay, who helped the Phillies beat the Cardinals at Citizens Bank Park on Thursday afternoon, 7-2, might be today's version of Roberts. He has thrown 52 complete games in 294 career starts.
"Those are the type of players that everybody aspires to be," Halladay said. "I think you realize at some point you'll never be as good as they are. But it's obviously a great compliment. Coming from such a good person, it means a lot. He was tremendous. There are not a lot of people that stack up to him."
Roberts and Halladay talked a little bit this spring about their abilities to complete games.
"The few that I have don't really stack up," Halladay said. "To this day it amazes me how guys did that. Not only five days, but they're doing it in four-man rotations. It's obviously pretty impressive. I think the game has changed a little bit, but those are still special people that do those kinds of things. He was one of the best at it. I think it's just more willingness to want the ball more than anything. For me that's what it comes down to. Just wanting the ball and wanting to compete. My guess is if you asked those guys, they enjoyed being out there and competing. It wasn't going the full nine innings, but being able to compete as long as possible."
Halladay could not pitch a complete game Thursday, but he competed to improve to 6-1 with a 1.45 ERA. He allowed seven hits, two runs, one earned run and three walks while striking out nine. He loaded the bases in the fifth inning when he walked Skip Schumaker with one out and Albert Pujols with two outs, but got Matt Holliday to swing and miss at a 3-2 curveball to end the inning.
Halladay had walked just three batters in his first six starts, so after the inning he calmly talked with home-plate umpire Mike Everitt about the strike zone.
"My only question was, I felt like I was getting some of those pitches earlier in the game, and it would be nice to get a couple in big situations," Halladay said. "You're never really disputing whether they're balls or strikes."
Halladay had allowed a run in the seventh and had runners on first and second with two outs when Phillies manager Charlie Manuel walked to the mound. Halladay had thrown 118 pitches, and it looked like his afternoon had ended.
"OK, Roy, here I am. Where are you at?" Manuel said he told Halladay on the mound.
Manuel joked afterward that he wondered whether Halladay might respond, "I'm here on the mound." But he knew Halladay would not joke in a situation like that. He is not the joking type. He said, "I'm fine. I can get this guy. I want him."
So, Manuel let Halladay get him. Halladay threw Holliday a first-pitch curve ball, and he grounded out to Chase Utley to end the inning.
Halladay got some nice support early. Jayson Werth hit a three-run home run to right field in the first inning off former Phillies pitcher Kyle Lohse to hand Philadelphia a 3-0 lead. Werth and Roberts grew up in Springfield, Ill., so Werth saluted Roberts when he touched home plate by pointing to the sky.
"I don't usually do that sort of thing, but definitely Robin was on the thoughts and hearts of many people today," Werth said. "As I was coming around third, I definitely had him on my mind. That was definitely big ups to Robin right there."
The Phillies scored two more runs in the fifth to make it 5-1. They made it 6-1 when Raul Ibanez hit a solo home run into the upper deck in right field.
The Phillies took three of four from the Cardinals, who have the best record in the National League.