Thursday, October 07, 2010

Not even Halladay was prepared for no-hitter

By Phil Sheridan
Philadelphia Inquirer
October 7, 2010

Roy Halladay came to Philadelphia for the chance to make it to the postseason. All he did Wednesday night was make postseason history.

On a chilly night, through a three-inning rainfall, the big bearded righthander they call "Doc" threw just the second postseason no-hitter in Major League Baseball's long history. Halladay allowed just one Cincinnati Red to reach base. That walk was all that kept him from equaling Don Larsen's 1956 World Series perfect game.

Halladay, who threw a perfect game himself back on May 29, created another indelible baseball memory for a team and a city that have had so much to celebrate the last several Octobers. By dominating the Reds, the champions of the National League's Central Division, Halladay gave the Phillies a 4-0 victory in Game 1 of this best-of-five NL division series.

And it was the focus on that, on winning an important playoff game, that allowed Halladay to wave off the building pressure of his no-hit, no-run performance. He even drove in one of the Phillies' runs with a hit.

"It's something I wasn't real worried about achieving," Halladay said of the no-hitter. "I think if you're not putting too much emphasis on trying to throw a no-hitter, you're going out and staying aggressive. It makes it a lot easier."

His teammates and the sellout crowd at Citizens Bank Park were feeling the pressure for him. As the game wore on - as the number of outs remaining dwindled to nine, then six, then three - the Phillies' dugout grew quieter while the frenzied towel-waving fans grew louder and more excited.

"About the sixth inning, it got real quiet," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "People stayed in their seats and sat there and watched the game. [Halladay] came in and went down to the end of the dugout, sat in his chair, and didn't say a word. End of the inning, he'd get back up and go back on the field. It's pretty neat, really."

Out in the bullpen, the relief pitchers also stayed put. No one wants to change the energy or put a jinx on a pitcher with a no-hitter. One reliever needed to relieve himself, but Ryan Madson said he had remained in place until Halladay secured the final out.

The Phillies are in the postseason for the fourth consecutive October, and the ballpark had been louder only a handful of times before: when Brad Lidge got the final out of the 2008 World Series and after a couple of other series-clinching wins.

The quiet of his teammates didn't pierce Halladay's otherworldly focus. The sonic boom of the fans did.

"When it gets that loud," he said, "it's hard to ignore. I thought especially the last three innings, it seemed like it got louder every inning. It was a lot of fun."

The day started normally enough. Halladay got to the ballpark at his usual time. He said he had tried to treat his first postseason start as a normal workday, to "disconnect yourself from the emotions a little bit." Shortstop Jimmy Rollins, who usually says a few words to Halladay, decided not to before this game.

"I said, 'Roy looks like he's in a different world right now,' " Rollins said.

What a world it turned out to be. Halladay was so good, so nearly mechanical, that there was little of the usual drama that surrounds a no-hitter. He issued his only walk in the fifth inning to Reds outfielder Jay Bruce. The only truly hard-hit ball, a line drive off the bat of relief pitcher Travis Wood, was caught by rightfielder Jayson Werth.

Rollins made two solid plays, making one throw from deep in the hole at short and scooping up a ball that ticked off the mound and changed its angle.

PHILADELPHIA - OCTOBER 06: Roy Halladay of the Philadelphia Phillies hits an RBI single in Game 1 of the NLDS against the Cincinnati Reds at Citizens Bank Park on October 6, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

But Halladay was the story. He got through the heart of the Reds' lineup in the seventh, then got three outs, including two strikeouts, on just seven pitches in the eighth inning. When he came out for the ninth, the crowd was on its feet, rally towels fluttering. With each out, the stadium shook.

Ramon Hernandez popped out to Chase Utley. Miguel Cairo hit a foul pop-up toward the third-base side. Wilson Valdez drifted under it and caught it with two hands, as if it were a baby dropped from a burning building. That brought up Brandon Phillips, the Reds' speedy leadoff hitter.

Phillips hit a ball that traveled no farther than his bat. Catcher Carlos Ruiz made the best defensive play of the night, ending the game and the suspense by throwing Phillips out from his knees.

Ruiz rushed out to hug Halladay. Ryan Howard, who caught the final outs of both of Halladay's 2010 classics, stretched his big arms and embraced them both. Soon the rest of the team was celebrating near the mound.

A fan held up a sign, "Welcome to Doctober." Halladay's wife and kids celebrated in the stands. Fireworks filled the South Philly sky.

Roy Halladay, one of the greatest pitchers never to have pitched in the postseason, had delivered one of the greatest postseason pitching performances ever.

"You want to share things like this with family and friends," Halladay said. "My family's here, and I feel like my friends are on the team."

He made a few million more friends Wednesday night.

Contact columnist Phil Sheridan at 215-854-2844 or Read his recent work at

Phillies take 1-0 lead, as usual

By Bill Conlin
Philadelphia Daily News
October 7, 2010

THE PHILLIES draw first blood more often than the cast of "True Blood," HBO's paean to the involuntary transfusion.

Children of the night, vot music they make, as Count Dracula used to say.

At 7:42 on the night National League history was made, Reds leadoff hitter Brandon Phillips gave his team's last drop.

Roy Halladay had pitched his way into the rare air of baseball history.

No National League pitcher had ever thrown a postseason no-hitter. Until last night. And he came one mislocated pitch from his second perfect game of 2010.

Yankees righthander Don Larsen, a journeyman, had stood atop the no-hit pedestal for 54 years, his perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1956 World Series standing alone through all the postseasons dating to 1903.

And Halladay did it with the first-blood intensity that has marked the Charlie Manuel Phillies since the NLDS against the Milwaukee Brewers in 2008.

Since then, the Phillies have won the first game of seven straight series in what has become an October marathon. The Brewers, Dodgers, Rays, Rockies, Dodgers and Yankees all went 0-1. Only the Yankees rallied, coming back with a vengeance to win the World Series in six games.

Halladay went for the jugular with an efficiency that amped The Bank crowd of 46,411 into a frenzied crescendo that rose inning by inning, strike by strike, out by out, into a tsunami of sound that even penetrated the sanctum of concentration where the great righthander dwells, alone with his game plan.

He faced 28 Cincinnati Reds batters. And a remarkable 25 of the 28 first pitches to them were strikes.

That wasn't a statement by Roy Halladay in Game 1 of the NLDS. It was a royal decree that seemed to order, "Off with their bats."

The final score of 4-0 and the modest first- and second-inning offense that produced all the runs and sent starter Edinson Volquez to an early shower became overshadowed as Halladay rolled through the Reds' No. 1-ranked NL offense like a threshing machine through a wheat field.

The only ball struck with authority by Dusty Baker's lineup was a sinking liner to right by reliever Travis Wood.

Yeah, that Travis Wood. The rookie lefthander who took a perfect game into the ninth inning of an epic scoreless battle against Halladay here in the third game of a Phillies' four-game sweep before the All-Star break.

Carlos Ruiz, who called another brilliant game for Halladay, blending Doc's four pitches like a French chef turning out a four-course meal, broke up Wood's no-hitter with a leadoff double. Jimmy Rollins scored Chooch with two outs in the 11th with a walkoff single.

PHILADELPHIA - OCTOBER 06: Roy Halladay of the Philadelphia Phillies delivers in Game 1 of the NLDS against the Cincinnati Reds at Citizens Bank Park on October 6, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Halladay threw the first postseason no-hitter since 1956, as the Phillies defeated the Reds 4-0. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Reds manager Dusty Baker will have some explaining to do in the arena of 20-20 hindsight. Volquez is just over a year removed from Tommy John surgery and took a pedestrian 4-3 record and 4.31 ERA into what could be the pivotal game of the best-of-five crapshoot. The Volquez who was 2-0 against the Phillies with an 0.73 ERA was the presurgery righthander who at his best was close to unhittable. That pitcher did not show up last night.

Naturally, the reliever who replaced him in the second after Halladay singled home a run and Shane Victorino singled home two more in the second was Wood. The lefthander buried the Phils once more, allowing a harmless hit in 3 1/3 lockdown innings. What if he had been paired with Halladay once more in one of those first-to-blink classics? We will never know.

Chase Utley and Victorino, who combined to score the first run last night, were the heroes in the 2008 NLDS that began the Phillies' run of postseason series successes. Utley's two-run double was the big blow in Game 1, and nobody will forget Victorino's Game 2 grand slam off CC Sabathia, set up by Brett Myers' epic 14-pitch at-bat that frenzied the crowd, a foreshadowing of the routine hysteria that has gripped the sold-out Bank in every October game since.

The centerfielder began last night's epic with a one-out double, brazenly stole third against Volquez' sluggish move to the plate and scored on a sacrifice fly by Utley, narrowly beating a howitzer throw by rightfielder Jay Bruce.

With the modest rites of offense out of the way, all eyes turned to Halladay. He was hard not to watch, even for Baker, who has been on both sides of no-hitters as player and manager.

"The thing about it was," Baker said, "I don't think he threw anything down the heart of the plate, everything was on the corners and moving. I don't know what his percentage was, but it looked like he threw 90 percent for first-pitch strikes. Any time you do that with the stuff he has, then he can go to work on you after that."

That wasn't work, it was surgery with a blunt knife, the kind of cadaver-slicing that takes the heart out of a team that now must face a well-rested Roy Oswalt tomorrow night. Charlie Manuel related how things got very quiet in the dugout around the sixth inning, "kind of like Florida." How Halladay just sat there quiet, "then went back out there."

"Pretty neat, really . . . Great managing . . . "

With Doc needing just three more outs for the no-no, I headed for the restroom with two outs in the bottom of the eighth. Chris Wheeler was in there hyperventilating. "Nervous?" I asked. "That's why I'm in here."

Leaving, I almost collided with Phillies president David Montgomery. On his way in.


"That's why I'm in here," he said.

The jitters were unfounded. Roy Halladay drained the last few drops of blood from the Reds, finishing with a 1-2-3 flourish what was last done to Cincinnati on June 23, 1971, by Rick Wise in a Riverfront Stadium no-hitter enlivened by the righthander's two home runs.

I was there for that one, too . . .

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Ruiz nearly perfect, too, in Halladay's no-hitter

By Rich Hofmann
Philadelphia Daily News
October 7, 2010

PHILADELPHIA - OCTOBER 06: Roy Halladay of the Philadelphia Phillies delivers in the ninth inning of Game 1 of the NLDS against the Cincinnati Reds at Citizens Bank Park on October 6, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

'If the world was perfect, it wouldn't be."

- Yogi Berra

The way Don Larsen has told the story, his catcher was in charge on that October day in 1956 when he pitched the only perfect game in the history of major league baseball's postseason. Larsen has been quoted as saying, "I never shook off any of the pitches Yogi called. I didn't want to ruin a good thing."

Last night, Roy Halladay shook off Carlos Ruiz only once.

There were 26 outs in the scorebook and the Cincinnati Reds had accomplished nothing but a fifth-inning walk by Jay Bruce. No runs, no hits, and one out remained to be gotten.

Halladay and Ruiz were hard-wired all night. They had been together before, pitcher and catcher, for perfection. That night in May, that perfect game against the Florida Marlins, was different and it was the same. What it did, in a small way, was continue to highlight the never-predicted value that Ruiz has brought to a franchise in flower.

He is an excellent receiver who has become an accomplished hitter, a man who commits felonies on fastballs (and often in October). On this night, well, he said he just knew - not that he was going to catch a no-hitter, but that Halladay had winning stuff in the first postseason appearance of his distinguished career. As Ruiz said, "It was fun to catch him in the bullpen - he was hitting his spots all the time. It was, oh my God, he was on today."

Twenty-six outs, then. Brandon Phillips was at the plate for the Reds. The first pitch of the at-bat, like so many others, was a called strike, a 93 mph fastball. Citizens Bank Park roiled, but pitcher and catcher continued to occupy their own world. As Halladay said, "Ruiz has done a great job of recognizing early on what's working, what's effective, and calling that."

Ruiz put down a sign for the next pitch. He wanted a fastball, up. And this time, this one time, Halladay shook his head.

"He said, no, we'll throw a cutter," is the way Ruiz remembered it. Phillips swung through that 91 mph cutter for Strike 2.

Then, for the 104th and final time, Ruiz put down a sign.

"And then he throws a curveball and that was it," said the catcher, who was kind of leaving out a few of the good parts.

"I don't want to make the wrong mistake."

- Yogi Berra

Phillips barely made contact. The truth is, his discarded bat traveled as far as the baseball, just a couple of feet in front of home plate. The decibel level seemed to drop noticeably when the ball squirted in front of the plate, the ballpark suddenly a cavern of held breath. Ball and bat lay inches apart - Ruiz said they actually hit against each other for a second - and left the catcher trying to do about three things at once.

"I'm panicking right there because he's a very good runner," Ruiz said.

He is trying to pick up the ball cleanly without becoming entangled with the bat. He is trying to make a throw to first to catch a speedy runner who, truth be told, is a moving obstacle as he motors up the baseline. He is trying to preserve the first no-hitter in postseason history since Larsen did it for the Yankees in the 1956 World Series.

Other than that, there wasn't much riding on the play.

"That's why I threw from my knee," Ruiz said. "The ball hit the bat and it came back a little bit. I got it and had to throw from my knee because he was fast."

He unleashed the throw and, for a second, we all wondered if this would be the last play of a historic night. Ruiz said he had known since the sixth inning that Halladay was working on a no-hitter, and that the perfect-game experience served him well.

PHILADELPHIA - OCTOBER 06: Fans cheer Roy Halladay during Game 1 of the NLDS against the Cincinnati Reds at Citizens Bank Park on October 6, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

"We tried to be relaxed the whole game," Ruiz said. "When I saw the scoreboard and it said no hits, I said,'OK, you've got to do this the same way you did it in Florida - have fun, relax.' I did the routine, I talked to Danny [Baez] almost the whole game - the kinds of things that don't make you think about the game."

He said he talked to Halladay exactly twice in the dugout. Both times, it was to remind him of the extra long delays between half-innings during the postseason because of extra television commercials. Before returning to the field, Ruiz told him those two times, "Let's take our time."

Which is what Ruiz did, until the very end. When Ryan Howard caught his throw at first base, it was over. All that was left was the celebration.

In the history of the sport, the black-and-white shot of Berra leaping into Larsen's arms is iconic. Now, the new color photo - dominant color: red - of Ruiz and Halladay embracing will seek its own place amid baseball lore. It is not hard to see the similarity.

Halladay and Ruiz are joined together now, forever. And you cannot help but wonder about destiny, and forever, and this incredible fact: On Yogi Berra Day at Yankee Stadium in 1999, a ceremonial pitch was thrown, Larsen to Berra. And then, in the real game, David Cone pitched a perfect game for the Yankees.

"It's like deja vu all over again."

- Yogi Berra

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