Sam Donnellon: Philly has Halladay's number now

Roy Halladay and Carlos Ruiz were the first to celebrate the completion of Halladay's no-hitter. (David M Warren/Staff Photographer)

THE LAPS HAD been made around the mound, some teammates seeming to hug or handshake Roy Halladay twice. The guys in the bullpen, who spent most of the 2 hours and 34 minutes of this rain-splattered spectacle wrapped in red jackets, cold as hell and afraid to move, had finished the sprint from centerfield, and were threatening to start the process all over again.

Finally, Halladay emerged from the scrum and walked toward the dugout. His familiar stoic look had returned, his mouth barely hinted at the history he just made.

Until he saw his wife and his two boys up in the stands.

Then the professional veneer that created last night's 4-0 no-hitter masterpiece shattered. A smile shot from ear to ear, his arm raised high, and for a moment at least, Roy Halladay fit perfectly into the hoopla that had engulfed him.

"You want to share things like this with family and friends," he said later. "My family's here, and I feel like my friends are on the team. So it makes it special for me."

When Roy Halladay was traded here last December he took the number 34, the same one worn by Cliff Lee in his brief but incredible tenure as a Phillie. It seemed odd, and Brandy Halladay, the wife who is every bit the open book that her husband is not, got a tad defensive about it when mentioned.

"No, no, no," she said then. "That should have been ours in July. So technically he just kept it warm until we got here, right?"

Halladay was supposed to be the guy who took the Phillies to the brink of a championship. That's how the Mrs. still sees it. He was the one the Phillies coveted last July, trading for Lee only after Toronto refused to lower its asking price of prized prospects. There is even a thought, as great as Lee was last postseason, that Halladay could have pitched on short rest and maybe delivered even more than two World Series wins against the Yankees, that he could have turned back the clock and become Mickey Lolich, the Detroit pitcher who allowed five runs in winning three games of the 1968 World Series.

There was also this other thought, of course, by far the more prevalent: That in trading away Lee and trading for Halladay, the Phillies had swapped a known postseason star for an unknown, that as great as Roy Halladay had been during this regular season, with 21 wins and a perfect game on the resume, the postseason is a whole different beast.

And so there Halladay was last night, taking the mound about an hour after Lee had left a mound in St. Petersburg, Fla., his postseason start piggybacking on top of yet another great Cliff Lee performance, adding all sorts of pressure and subplots to a Game 1 of this National League Division Series with the Reds.

"I think you try and disconnect yourself from the emotions a little bit," Halladay said, but when your backdrop is Lee's outing, and 46,411 white-towel-waving fans, well, good luck mere mortals.

He is no mortal, of course. The idea that he would somehow become an October wimp was absurd before he threw his first pitch, and absolutely idiotic after he did.

He needed 11 pitches to get through the first inning. He struck out two batters and retired the side in order on seven pitches in the eighth inning. He mixed 78 mph changeups with 90 mph cutters and then suddenly two or three 94 mph fastballs would paint the black.

Halladay fanned eight Reds, and threw 104 pitches, 79 for strikes.

"The thing about it is, you know, I don't think he threw anything down the heart of the plate," said Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker, who called it "the best pitched game I've seen since I've been going to the playoffs and the World Series."

"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."

And he did. With the precision of a gem-cutter.

And the singlemindedness of one, too.

"I wasn't thinking about all that stuff, first playoffs or any of that," Halladay said. "It was, go out and try and execute a plan, and that made it a lot easier.

"Excited, I guess, is a better word to describe it than nervous. I was excited."

Either way, it can get to you. Edinson Volquez, the Reds' hottest pitcher down the stretch, couldn't find the plate, couldn't finish the second inning.

In his first-ever postseason start, Halladay was ice, start to finish, even amid some mucky middle innings when the rain soaked the towels and sent somes fans to seek shelter. On a day when Cliff Lee could have been a haunting specter, Roy Halladay assured that he was not.

"I can not hear that comment for the next 5 years," Brandy Halladay had said that December day when her husband first tried on the number. "Everybody says, 'Oh so interesting, he's taking Lee's number.' It should have been ours to begin with."

Well it is now, lady. It is now.

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