PHILADELPHIA—As Kevin Frandsen’s glove cracked to end the seventh inning, the ominous skies above Citizens Bank Park opened.  No matter.

Roy Halladay had already done what he needed to.

Save for two pitches, solo home runs in the second and seventh by Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday, Halladay was untouchable, serving only two runs in seven innings in the Phillies 8-2 win over the St. Louis Cardinals last night, striking out six and walking two.

“Obviously it was a struggle in spring training and the first two starts were a struggle, and I know it’s hard for you guys to believe, but I always felt like I was going in the right direction,” Halladay said. “I felt like it was a matter of time before I put it all together.”

The win snapped a four-game slide, and was only the Phillies second in six games.

Rain ended it early, after six and a half frames. But Halladay was the show Friday.

At least the one you expected to see. After four games without a walk and seven games of three runs or fewer, the lineup erupted on Friday to tie a season high in scoring, dropping five in the first inning, and chasing Cards starter Jaime Garcia after three.

Only, this quirky lineup card featured Frandsen at first, Michael Young batting cleanup, and Freddy Galvis in left field, while Ryan Howard and Dom Brown nursed injuries.

“Big difference pitching with a nice lead,” Halladay said. “You get five early, give one back, and they come back and get you three more. That doesn’t happen very often, but it sure makes you a better pitcher. You can attack guys.”

That was helpful. But if Halladay had been who he was against the Braves and Mets, even that wouldn’t have been enough to spare him – and the team – the consequences.

After two disastrous starts to open his most uncertain of 15 seasons, Halladay was encouraging last Saturday against, well, the Miami Marlins. Was it sustainable?

An answer: Halladay had four 1-2-3 innings, and at one point retired 14 straight.

“It’s just a matter of doing it consistently and not getting too caught up in trying to do something that I necessarily don’t need to do,” he said. “It’s nice and easy and doesn’t ever have to be – for me, the way to add is to stay within my mechanics.”

Friday was only one start. But with John Lannan on the shelf for 6-8 weeks and a twentysomething (or two) his likely replacement in the rotation in the meantime, it was exactly the start the Phillies needed him to have: long and effective.

When the rain came, Chad Durbin was warming in the bullpen. Durbin, Jeremy Horst, Raul Valdes and Phillippe Aumont have been, at best, unreliable. Mike Adams told CSN Philadelphia today he wishes his surgically-repaired throwing shoulder “felt a little better.” Jonathan Papelbon and Antonio Bastardo have been efficient – so far.

To say the least, the Phillies need sure things.

Halladay isn’t that yet. But he's OK with working to get there.

“If anybody ever tells you they’re right where they want to be, there’s going to be hard times coming up,” he said. “You always want to improve, you always want to get better. You always want to be more consistent. That’s the goal. That’s always been the goal.”

And he’s moving toward it – not away as he had been. For him, that’s encouraging.

“It feels good when you have the good feeling and you know that you’re doing things right and that you know you can correct it when you’re not doing it right,” he said.

It wasn’t vintage Halladay. He threw first-pitch strikes to only 11 of 25 Cards and just 59 in 109 total. But that he can work from behind as masterfully as he did tonight is critical.

“Even tonight, when he got behind, he made quality pitches,” Manuel said. “He still was able to locate the ball good on both sides of the plate. … He had a real good outing.”

What's more, it showed the reinvention he required was near completed, if not already.

Halladay continued an even split between his two-seam fastball, cutter, sinker, curveball and changeup, with the first two setting up the last two, with the third sprinkled in – exactly as he needs to. And he enjoyed success, this time, against reputable hitters.

He even appeared to have a better grasp of his fastball than he had. If he can rediscover his feel for his cutter right, look out.

The Halladay of old might not be back. But the Halladay of new might just be enough.