After 12 years and almost 3,200 innings pitched, Roy “Doc” Halladay made his playoff debut one to remember.
Halladay last night joined Don Larsen as the only pitchers in Major League Baseball history to throw a postseason no-hitter, carrying the Philadelphia Phillies to a 4-0 win over the Cincinnati Reds.
As fans at Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park waved signs that read “Welcome to Doc-tober” and “Playoff Phever, Better Call the Doc!” Halladay mixed fastballs and breaking pitches to dominate a Reds lineup that scored the most runs in the National League this season.
“It’s just one of those special things I think you’ll always remember,” Halladay said. “But the best part about it is the playoffs take priority. It’s pretty neat for me to be able to go out and win a game like that and know there’s more to come for us and more to accomplish.”
Halladay, 33, had an eye on the postseason when he joined the Phillies, who reached the World Series the past two years.
A former first-round draft pick, Halladay spent his first 12 seasons in Toronto, where he made six All-Star teams, twice won 20 games and received the 2003 Cy Young Award as the American League’s best pitcher. When October rolled around and the playoffs began, though, the Blue Jays headed home.
Halladay came to Philadelphia in a four-team trade in December and signed a three-year, $60 million contract extension. The 6-foot-6 right-hander then went 21-10 with a 2.44 earned run average, helping the Phillies win a fourth straight NL East division title and earning the starting nod in Game 1 of the playoffs.
Halladay threw a perfect game for the Phillies in May and manager Charlie Manuel said it was clear early in last night’s game that his player, who threw first-pitch strikes to 25 of 28 batters, was in total control.
“I’ve been in baseball 50 years, this is the first time I’ve seen a guy throw two no-hitters in a year,” said the Phillies’ 66-year-old manager. “Absolutely unreal.”
The Phillies opened a 4-0 lead after two innings and Manuel said the Philadelphia dugout got quiet by about the sixth inning, when Halladay’s teammates started thinking about a possible no-hitter. Halladay followed the same routine after every inning, walking to the end of the dugout and sitting in a chair away from the rest of the team.
“Nobody said anything, (we were) sitting there watching the game. It’s pretty neat, really. It was great managing,” said Manuel, eliciting a round of laughter from reporters at his news conference.
The only baserunner Halladay allowed was a two-out walk on a full-count pitch to Jay Bruce in the fifth inning. Halladay had a 2-2 count before throwing balls on the final two pitches.
“Just one of those pitches that got away,” Halladay said. “Wasn’t exactly where I wanted.”
It would be the only misstep by Halladay. As the outs piled up, the sellout crowd of 46,411 in Philadelphia got louder. Halladay called it one of the “most electric atmospheres” he’s ever been in.
With the Phillies’ fans standing, cheering and waving towels, Reds leadoff hitter Brandon Phillips chopped a ground ball in front of home plate. Catcher Carlos Ruiz jumped up, grabbed the ball as it rolled against Phillips’s bat and fired to first base for the final out.
Halladay pounded his fist into his glove as Ruiz and the rest of the Phillies ran to the pitcher’s mound to celebrate.
Halladay said the enormity of his achievement had yet to sink in. Larsen was the only previous pitcher to throw a postseason no-hitter, with a perfect game for the New York Yankees in the 1956 World Series. Halladay is the fifth major league pitcher with two no-hitters in a year, the first since Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan in 1973.
“These are the types of things that once the season is over, I think you’re able to kind of soak it all in and enjoy it,” Halladay said. “Right now it’s easy to keep your focus on the team, especially at this point in the season knowing we need a couple more wins here to move on.”
Thanks to Halladay, the Phillies hold a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five NL Division Series, taking a first step toward a possible third straight World Series trip.
“It’s been everything that I hoped it would be,” Halladay said of his playoff debut. “It’s something that I’ve looked forward to, and obviously very glad I got the chance.”
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