Roy Halladay's playoff no-hitter makes another indelible mark | Phil Sheridan
Phil Sheridan, INQUIRER STAFF COLUMNIST
Updated: Wednesday, October 6, 2010, 9:45 PM
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 Reds batter 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 has had so much to celebrate over the past several Octobers. By dominating the Reds, the champions of the National League's Central Division, Halladay gave the Phillies a 1-0 lead in 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' four runs with a base 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 remained in place until Halladay secured the final out.
In this, the Phillies' fourth consecutive October in the postseason, the ballpark has been louder only a handful of times: 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," Halladay 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 tried to treat his first postseason start as a normal work day, to "disconnect yourself from the emotions a little bit." Shortstop Jimmy Rollins, who usually says a few words to Halladay, decided against it 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 right fielder 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 angles.
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 Halladay came out for the ninth, the sellout 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 popup 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 pitch 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.