PHILADELPHIA—Erik Kratz couldn’t have been the problem on Monday.

And Humberto Quintero wasn’t the solution.

Roy Halladay, making his second start following an injury riddled season and question packed spring, lasted just 4 innings against the New York Mets in a 7-2 Phillies loss before the Citizens Bank Park crowd.

He surrendered 7 earned runs on 6 hits, one a 3-run home run in the second, struck out as many has he walked (3), plunked a batter and hurled a wild pitch.

Though Halladay’s struggles are most pressing to the staff, they’re not isolated. Save for Cliff Lee and John Lannan, the rest of the rotation has been woeful in the early going, posting a major league-worst 6.75 ERA. The bullpen’s 7.79 ERA ranks second worst.

Could they simply be missing Carlos Ruiz?

It’s possible that while Kratz and Quintero aren’t the reasons Halladay threw first-pitch strikes to just 11 of 22 batters yesterday, and why Hamels has through his first two starts looked as lost, the comfort of a familiar face – Ruiz’s – behind the plate can simply help in ways the other two can’t.

But the numbers don’t support Kratz bashers. Last year, Halladay stuck a 3.00 ERA in 7 games started by Kratz, with a 5.42 ERA over 17 with Ruiz as his backstop. Obviously Halladay was better with Ruiz in prior seasons – it was a 2.13 in 2010 and a 2.45 in 2011 – and the best catching option on the roster, offensively and defensively, is still Ruiz.

But the notion that Kratz can’t call a game, manage a rotation, or cater to top aces just falls flat.

“We have two quality catchers that are smart, that call the games, that do a good job,” Halladay said on Monday. “I’ll take either of them on any day. It’s more important for our pitchers right now to execute pitches. I really don’t think that falls on the shoulders of either of our catchers.”

Last year, Hamels, too, was better with Kratz (2.22 ERA) than with Ruiz (3.32 ERA) catching him – and Hamels’ 2012 went far smoother than did Halladay’s.

Ruiz’s 25-game suspension for testing positive for amphetamines last year runs through April 27.

In the meantime, Halladay has posted his just his second set of back to back starts in which he’s gone 4 or fewer innings and allowed 5 or more earned runs since 200, the year he was sent down to the minors by the Toronto Blue Jays to polish his craft.

He’s 0-2 with a 14.73 ERA and 12/6 K/BB ratio.

Hamels, the Phillies newly anointed No. 1 starter and still-recently minted $144 million man, has served 5 or more runs in 6 or fewer innings in back-to-back games for the first time since April 2009.

He’s 0-2 with a 10.97 ERA, with just one more walk (5) than home run surrendered (4).

Command has been a major issue with both. Hamels has a reputation for being a slow starter. Halladay, well, we’re not sure just yet what he is anymore.

Before the game Monday, scrutiny swirled about the possibility that Halladay wasn’t comfortable with Kratz catching him. After his debut, Halladay recalled feeling “half-hearted” about one of 3 pitches the Atlanta Braves mashed out of the park.

Then Manuel penned Quintero in his lineup for the second time in 3 days.

Manuel before the game insisted that it was purely coincidental, and that Kratz was just getting  a needed day off. Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee reminded that Manuel – not himself or Halladay – is the one who picks and chooses the lineup.

“I think our staff definitely likes throwing to Ruiz,” Manuel said after the game on Monday.

“They’ve gotten very comfortable with him. They follow his game plan, things like that. I think that when you see Kratzey and Quintero, you’re looking at guys that are new to our staff. But Chooch definitely, he’s won respect from him and everything like that. Basically because they threw and threw and threw to him, and he improved his catching over the last 2-3 years. That’s kinda how I see that.”

Maybe come the second of the next 3-game set with the Mets, on next-next Saturday, Ruiz’s return will comfort to the staff – and boost their performance.

Just know Kratz isn’t the one that kept it so low.

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