The Doc is in
Thursday, October 7, 2010
PHILADELPHIA - In the last 54 years of baseball history prior to Wednesday night, there had been 952 postseason games played, all of which shared two common traits of omission: None had ever included a no-hit game, and none had ever been graced by Harry Leroy Halladay.
But on a chilly, drizzly night at Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park, first one historic void was filled, and then the other. At 5:08 p.m., Roy Halladay, the Phillies' brilliant right-hander, threw the first postseason pitch of his career, and at 7:42 p.m. baseball's first postseason no-hitter since 1956 was complete.
Halladay, 33, turned his postseason debut into the most monumental pitching performance in a half-century of baseball history - holding the Cincinnati Reds hitless in a 4-0 Phillies victory in Game 1 of the National League Division Series.
Only Don Larsen, author of the fabled 1956 World Series perfect game for the New York Yankees, had thrown a no-hit game in the playoffs - a fact that held up for generations, even as baseball expanded its postseason, first to two rounds, then three. Only a fifth-inning walk to Jay Bruce kept Halladay's gem from being equally perfect.
"It's surreal," Halladay said. "I just wanted to pitch in the postseason. To pitch a game like this is just a dream come true."
The crowd of 46,411 rose to its feet in anticipation the moment the bottom of the eighth inning was complete, as Halladay emerged from the Phillies' dugout and jogged to the mound to pitch the ninth.
"It seemed like it got louder every inning," Halladay said.
Halladay got Ramon Hernandez to pop up to second. One out. Pinch hitter Miguel Cairo lifted a foul pop that Phillies third baseman Wilson Valdez caught halfway between the foul line and railing. Two outs.
Brandon Phillips, the Reds' shortstop, came to the plate, the noise rivaling anything Phillies fans produced during the 2008 run to the World Series title. On an 0-2 pitch, Phillips barely made contact, pushing a dribbler in front of home plate. Catcher Carlos Ruiz fielded the ball just as it hit Phillips's bat, and threw over Phillips's left shoulder to first baseman Ryan Howard.
Three outs. Bedlam.
Halladay, who had thrown a perfect game in Florida in May, raised his arms and awaited what he knew was coming: a full-body hug from Ruiz, followed by a wild, teeming parade of teammates flying out of the Phillies' dugout toward him.
"It's hard to explain," said Halladay, demonstrating his legendary ability to maintain his focus, "but pitching a game like that - being able to win the game comes first. Once it ends, it's a little bit surreal to know some of that [historical] stuff."