Halladay takes his historic no-hitter in stride

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Halladay takes his historic no-hitter in stride

Post by FlipSide » Thu Oct 07, 2010 6:06 pm

PHILADELPHIA – Deep inside the tunnel next to the Philadelphia Phillies dugout is a chair. It is tucked away behind a short stairwell, hidden from the dugout, with a small television as the only connection to everything happening outside. This is where Roy Halladay(notes) often goes between innings of the games he pitches and where he sat each inning Wednesday evening as he became the second pitcher to throw a no-hitter in a postseason game.

The Phillies' Roy Halladay became the second pitcher with a no-hitter in postseason history, joining Don Larsen (1956).

(Matt Rourke/AP Photo)
And as afternoon light gave way to an evening gloom in Game 1 of the National League Division Series, none of the other Phillies dared to approach him. Not Roy Oswalt(notes), the pitcher who usually uses the same chair when he pitches. Not Carlos Ruiz(notes), the catcher with whom Halladay was in such perfect symmetry he only shook off Ruiz’s pitch call once. Not even Rich Dubee, the pitching coach who assessed Halladay’s brilliance early and let his only correspondence be a slap on his pitcher’s behind at the end of each inning followed by the words: “Nice job.”

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More MLB Videos Popular Sports PagesNBA managers predict next year's champs and MVP How an MLB player cheated death twice More From Les CarpenterReds' Gomes survives brushes with death Oct 5, 2010 Seesaw CC makes the Yankees queasy Sep 24, 2010 So it was a solitary pursuit, this 4-0 victory that was close to perfection without actually being perfection. Halladay would later say he was aware he was pitching a no-hitter, “knew it in the fifth or sixth inning,” he said. But he has always been a pitcher who demanded isolation and routine. Even as he threw the most exciting game of the year, he worked to stay calm, to think of anything other than the string of zeros on the scoreboard high above left field at Citizens Bank Park.

“I think as soon as you try and (focus on a no-hitter) it kind of takes you out of your plan a little bit,” he said.

[Photos: More images of Halladay’s historic no-hitter]

For much of the last decade he has been baseball’s most dominant pitcher, a superstar without the postseason to accentuate his standing, three times a 20-game winner, holder of the Cy Young but no meaningful October starts. Then, Wednesday, in his first postseason game, he threw a no-hitter. As if there is any doubt now about how great Roy Halladay has become.

He was dominant. Everyone on the Phillies knew it. As Halladay warmed up before the game, bullpen coach Mick Billmeyer was struck by the extra movement on the pitcher’s fastball, the way it seemed to jump at the last second. This is the way Halladay had been throwing for the last couple of weeks as the playoffs were assured and Halladay was allowed more rest.

“I didn’t know if he could throw a no-hitter,” Billmeyer said, “but he was real, real crisp.”

The Reds were overmatched from the beginning. Halladay stood long and lanky, throwing almost effortlessly as the Cincinnati hitters lunged with awkward swings. For much of the first part of the year Dubee had been stressing throwing with ease to Halladay, worried that the pitcher sometimes tried “to be too special,” he said.

When Halladay attempts to merely be good, he becomes great. And as the game progressed, Halladay was great. Not long before darkness fell, a small storm cell came over the park, dousing the players for more than an inning in a cold October rain. Halladay hardly seemed to notice.

The Reds could do nothing. Cincinnati’s second pitcher of the night, Travis Wood(notes), hit a sinking line drive to right field in the third inning that right fielder Jayson Werth(notes) had to slide to catch. In the sixth, pinch hitter Juan Francisco(notes) smacked a ground ball that appeared to have a chance to go into center field but it struck the mound and bounced right to shortstop Jimmy Rollins(notes).

Mostly the Reds took feeble hacks or let strikes zip past them without even trying to swing, as if looking for something else.

Roy Halladay celebrates with catcher Carlos Ruiz after pitching a no-hitter in his first playoff appearance.

(Rob Carr/AP Photo)
“I don’t know what happened,” Cincinnati second baseman Brandon Phillips(notes) said. “He pitched the ball and we didn’t hit the ball.”

Not that it mattered, all of Halladay’s pitches – his fastball, curve and changeup – were outstanding. On May 29 in Florida he had thrown a perfect game, yet fellow Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels(notes) watched from the dugout and marveled at how this time Halladay was even better, more precise. Look at the swings the Reds took, Hamels said. They were baffled by everything Halladay threw.

“The Marlins actually hit some balls hard that we made good plays on,” Hamels said.

The only blemish was a fifth-inning walk issued to Reds right fielder Jay Bruce(notes) who took a cut fastball on a 3-2 count. Otherwise, Halladay would have become the only player to throw two perfect games in a single year.

As the ninth inning started, the stadium grew strangely quiet. The 46,411 seemed more anxious than euphoric. A man and a woman left to go home and were booed by the fans around them. A feeble chant of “Let’s go Roy! Let’s go Roy,” rose into the night. But the final explosion didn’t come until Phillips hit a tiny dribbler in front of home plate. Phillips threw down his bat to run to first and for a moment Ruiz had to wait for the ball to stop moving before picking it up and throwing to first. He would say it was the most nervous he was throwing a ball, so much so that an hour after the game ended his right hand was still shaking.

Then after the Phillies mauled Halladay and the pitcher had done all the obligatory on-field interviews, he walked into the tunnel where he spent half the game, up the staircase that runs above the chair and down a hallway to the clubhouse. Billmeyer embraced him. Several other men slapped him on his back.

“Let’s give him some room!” shouted a team executive as Halladay turned left and toward the clubhouse where all the Phillies players stood, most still in their uniforms.

“Here he is,” one shouted. And together they all jumped on him once more, shaking his arm, slapping his back all the way to his locker.

It was a joyous night, a magical night. One almost too surreal to believe. And yet Halladay acted as if this was a routine victory over the Cubs or Nationals in the middle of August. He changed out of his uniform and led his two sons back into the same tunnel to go to the interview room. None of this seemed to overwhelm him.

After he was gone, Hamels smiled.

“You know, this is what he expects to do, and so when he does it he’s just like, ‘yeah that’s me,’ ” he said.
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