The best team in baseball sent arguably the best pitcher in the majors to the mound Wednesday night and came away with the first postseason spot in the bigs.
Roy Halladay baffled the offensively-inept Houston Astros to lift the Philadelphia Phillies to a 1-0 victory and his 20th career shutout. The reigning NL Cy Young award winner allowed six hits and one walk while striking out seven and needed just 114 pitches (86 strikes) to notch his eighth complete game of the season.
With the Atlanta Braves falling fast, it’s only a matter of time before the Phillies lock up their fifth straight NL East title (their magic number is four), making Wednesday’s victory a little less celebratory than most playoff-clinching wins. That’s also because the Phillies (95-51) have their eyes on a bigger prize.
“That’s the beauty of being here,” Halladay said. ”We expect to win. You convert to that quickly, coming from a team where that wasn’t the case. We had some big wins last year and come into the clubhouse and that’s where we expected to be.”
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Halladay continues to lead the way for one of — if not the — the most feared pitching staff in the majors. At 18-5 on the year, he’s the front-runner to repeat for the Cy Young, just ahead of teammates Cliff Lee (16-7) and Cole Hamels (14-8). None of the Phillies’ top three starters has an ERA over 2.71 or a whip above 1.04.
The 146 games Philadelphia needed to clinch is the fewest in franchise history. They did it in 147 in 1915.
Now all that remains to be seen is who they will play. Milwaukee and Arizona — who lead their respective divisions — are tied at 87-63 overall. The Braves lead the NL Wild Card race, but their lead has slipped to 4 1/2 games over St. Louis during a 6-9 skid to start the month that included sweeps at the hands of the Phillies and Cardinals.