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Roy Halladay's playoff no-hitter: A perfect performance from a serious guy | Bob Ford

Bob Ford, INQUIRER COLUMNIST

Updated: Wednesday, October 6, 2010, 9:54 PM

Roy Halladay pitched only the second no-hitter in postseason baseball history. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

Aside from giving Roy Oswalt a difficult act to follow, there wasn't much fault to find with the way Roy Halladay opened the baseball playoffs on Wednesday.

Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay and Carlos Ruiz celebrate Halladay's no-hitter and win in Game 1 of the NLDS. (David Maialetti / Staff Photographer)
The Phillies celebrate Roy Halladay's no-hitter and win in Game 1 of the NLDS Series at Citizens Bank Park. (David M Warren / Staff Photographer)
The Phillies celebrate Roy Halladay's no-hitter and their win in Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (David M Warren / Staff Photographer)
Roy Halladay raises his cap in salute to the fans after his no-hitter and win in Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (David M Warren / Staff Photographer)
Roy Halladay tips his cap to the crowd after throwing a no-hitter in Game 1 of the NLDS. The Phillies, won 4-0. (Michael Bryant / Staff Photographer)
Wilson Valdez takes a practice swing before batting practice prior to Game 1 of the NLDS against the Reds. (Michael Bryant / Staff Photographer )
Shane Victorino will lead off for the Phillies in Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (Michael Bryant / Staff Photographer)
Shane Victorino prepares for batting practice prior to Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (Michael Bryant / Staff Photographer)
Shortstop Jimmy Rollins chats with hitting coach Greg Gross prior to Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (Michael Bryant / Staff Photographer)
Right fielder Jayson Werth waits for his turn in the batting cage prior to Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (Michael Bryant / Staff Photographer)
Catcher Carlos Ruiz and left fielder Raul Ibanez gather prior to Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (Michael Bryant / Staff Photographer)
Shortstop Jimmy Rollins meets with hitting coach Greg Gross prior to Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (Michael Bryant / Staff Photographer)
General manager Ruben Amaro and manager Charlie Manuel huddle at the batting cage prior to Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (Michael Bryant / Staff Photographer)
Wilson Valdez, who will play third base for Placido Polanco in Game 1 of the NLDS, jogs around the bases before batting practice at Citizens Bank Park. (David Maialetti / Staff Photographer)
From left to right, pitchers Roy Oswalt, Kyle Kendrick and Ryan Madson shag balls during batting practice before Game 1 of the NLDS versus the Cincinnati Reds. (David Maialetti / Staff Photographer)
Fans hang a sign in support of pitcher Roy Halladay before Game 1 of the NLDS against the Cincinnati Reds. (David Maialetti / Staff Photographer)
Roy Oswalt, left, leaps for a ball hit to the outfield during batting practice before Game 1 of the NLDS against the Cincinnati Reds. Pitcher Kyle Kendrick looks on during the play. (David Maialetti / Staff Photographer)
An usher watches as the Phillies practice before Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (David Maialetti / Staff Photographer)
Fans try to catch a foul ball hit by Carlos Ruiz during batting practice before Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (David Maialetti / Staff Photographer)
A fan holds a sign in support of Roy Halladay during batting practice at Citizens Bank Park before Game 1 of the NLDS against the Reds. (David Maialetti / Staff Photographer)
Terri Johnson, left, and Mary Kobad, both of Schwecksville, Pa., laugh prior to Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (David M Warren / Staff Photographer)
Bryen O'Boyle, lead singer for Mr. Greengenes, entertains the crowd prior to Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (David M Warren / Staff Photographer)
Dana Dilliplane and her father, Doug, of Pottstown attend Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (David M Warren / Staff Photographer)
Fans cheer as fireworks explode and the Phillies take the field for the start of Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (David M Warren / Staff Photographer)
Fans stand for the playing of the National Anthem as both teams line the field before start of Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (David M Warren / Staff Photographer)
Fans cheer the National Anthem as both teams line the field before the start of Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (David M Warren / Staff Photographer)
The Phillies are introduced before the start of the first game of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (David M Warren / Staff Photographer)
Roy Halladay's first pitch for Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (Ron Cortes / Staff Photographer)
Roy Halladay pitches in the first inning of Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (Ron Cortes / Staff Photographer)
Roy Halladay pitches in the first inning of Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (Ron Cortes / Staff Photographer)
The Reds' Edinson Volquez pitches in the first inning of Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (Ron Cortes / Staff Photographer)
Shane Victorino steals third base in the first inning of Game 1 of the NLDS. The Reds' Scott Rolen is late with the tag. (Ron Cortes / Staff Photographer)
Roy Halladay pitches in the first inning of Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (David Maialetti / Staff Photographer)
Chase Utley drives in the first run with a sacrifice fly in the first inning of Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (David Maialetti / Staff Photographer)
Shane Victorino slides home to score in the first inning of Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. ( David Maialetti / Staff Photographer)
Ryan Howard greets Shane Victorino, who scored the first run in Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (David Maialetti / Staff Photographer)
Roy Halladay's first pitch in Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)
The Reds' Edison Volquez pitches in the first inning of Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)
Shane Victorino scores on a sacrifice fly from Chase Utley in the first inning of Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (Ron Cortes / Staff Photographer)
Shane Victorino scores in the first inning of Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (Ron Cortes / Staff Photographer)
Roy Halladay gets set to make a pitch in Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (David M Warren / Staff Photographer)
Roy Halladay throws the first pitch of Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (David M Warren / Staff Photographer)
Reds starting pticher Edinson Volquez throws during the first inning of Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (David M Warren / Staff Photographer)
Scott Rolen strikes out in the second inning of Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (David Maialetti / Staff Photographer)
Reds catcher Ramon Hernandez and pitcher Edinson Volquez confer in the second inning of Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (David Maialetti / Staff Photographer)
Catcher Carlos Ruiz is safe at second base, as Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips can not get to the ball in the second inning of Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (David Maialetti / Staff Photographer)
Carlos Ruiz is safe at second base in the second inning on a Wilson Valdez single in Game 1 of the NLDS. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)
Roy Halladay helps himself with a RBI-single in the second inning of Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (David Maialetti / Staff Photographer)
Carlos Ruiz celebrates scoring the first run of the second inning in Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)
Shane Victorino claps his hands after hitting a two-RBI single in Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (David Maialetti / Staff Photographer)
Roy Halladay is greeted at the plate after scoring in the second inning of Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (Ron Cortes / Staff Photographer)
Pitcher Roy Halladay crosses the plate to score the fourth run of the game on a Shane Victorino single in the seocnd inning of Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. Wilson Valdez and Chase Utley greet him. (Michael Bryant / Staff Photographer)
Shane Victorino celebrates with Davey Lopes after driving in two runs in the second inning of Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (David Maialetti / Staff Photographer)
Wilson Valdez points to a pop-up from Drew Stubbs in the third inning of Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. ( Michael Bryant / Staff Photographer)
A Phillies fan struggles to stay dry in Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (Michael Bryant / Staff Photographer)
Fans cover up from the rain during Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (Michael Bryant / Staff Photographer)
A Conan blimp flies over Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (Michael Bryant / Staff Photographer)
The Conan blimp flies above centerfield during the first game of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (David M Warren / Staff Photographer)
Orlando Cabrera strikes out for the second out of the fourth inning in Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (David Maialetti / Staff Photographer)
Roy Halladay continues his no-hitter in the fourth inning of Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (David Maialetti / Staff Photographer)
The Reds' Scott Rolen exchanges words with umpire John Hirschbeck after striking out in the fifth inning of Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)
Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)
Roy Halladay carries a no-hitter through eight innings of Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)
Dusty Baker makes a visit to the mound in Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)
Roy Halladay no-hits the Reds through eight innings of Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)
Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay gets ready to pitch to the Cincinnati Reds' Brandon Phillips for the final out of Game 1 of the NLDS. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)
Roy Halladay throws the last pitch in his no-hitter in Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (David M Warren / Staff Photographer)
Carlos Ruiz charges pitcher Roy Halladay to celebrate his no-hitter in the NLDS Game 1 win at Citizens Bank Park. (David M Warren / Staff Photographer)
Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay and Carlos Ruiz celebrate Halladay's no-hitter win in Game 1 of the NLDS. (David Maialetti / Staff Photographer)
Carlos Ruiz and pitcher Roy Halladay celebrate his no-hitter in the win in Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (David M Warren / Staff Photographer)
Roy Halladay and Carlos Ruiz celebrate after no-hitting the Reds in Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)
Roy Halladay runs up to hug Carlos Ruiz after the last out in the ninth inning. Halladay pitched a no-hitter and the Phillies won, 4-0. (Michael Bryant / Staff Photographer)
Carlos Ruiz gives Roy Halladay a hug after Halladay pitched a no-hitter in Game 1 of the NLDS. The Phillies won, 4-0. (Michael Bryant / Staff Photographer)
Carlos Ruiz and Roy Halladay celebrate Halladay's no-hitter in Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)
Carlos Ruiz and Roy Halladay celebrate Halladay's no-hitter in Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)
Roy Halladay and Carlos Ruiz celebrate the no-hitter in Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (Ron Cortes / Staff Photographer)
Roy Halladay and Carlos Ruiz celebrate the no-hitter in Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (Ron Cortes / Staff Photographer)
Carlos Ruiz hugs Halladay after the no-hitter in Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (Ron Cortes / Staff Photographer)
Carlos Ruiz and Ryan Howard celebrate with Roy Halladay after his no-hitter in Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (Ron Cortes / Staff Photographer)
Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay celebrates his no-hitter in Game 1 of the NLDS against the Cincinnati Reds. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)
Roy Halladay and Carlos Ruiz celebrate at the end of Game 1 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. (Ron Cortes / Staff Photographer)
Roy Halladay hugs Brad Lidge after throwing a no-hitter in Game 1 of the NLDS. (Michael Bryant / Staff Photographer)
Photo Gallery: Phillies 4, Reds 0 - Game 1 NLDS

If this is what he was saving up all those years when he missed out on the postseason, then it seems as if the postseason has been missing out on a lot as well. Halladay proved against the Reds that he is made for big-game baseball, even if his previous teams were not.

Halladay painted outlines on the inside corner and the outside corner of the plate against Cincinnati. He had all his pitches working, and all of them, from the reliable fastball to the change-up that has been missing lately, dived away from the batters upon reaching the plate as if suddenly feeling the pull of gravity. He pitched when the game was still in doubt. He pitched as the tension mounted. He even pitched several innings in the middle of the game during a steady rain.

"I'm glad we got it in, that's for sure," Halladay said.

It's a great line from the man who had just thrown only the second no-hitter in baseball postseason history, but he was serious. He always is.

Halladay was extremely serious against the Reds - something they realized early on - but he was no more serious than in an April game against the Nationals or a May game in Florida.

"I think you try to disconnect yourself from the emotions a little bit," he said. "Knowing that you've prepared yourself, you're ready, and you try to go out and execute your plan."

Mike Tyson once said everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth, and every baseball pitcher enters the game with a plan that is fine until he gets hit. That never happened to Halladay in the opener, and certainly part of it had to do with the plan, but there's no way to plan for having unhittable stuff.

"It was like a situation where you're almost helpless because the guy was dealing," said Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker.

Baker knows something about running into bad luck in the postseason. The last series he managed before this one was with the Cubs and something about a foul ball and a guy named Bartman got in the way of Chicago making the World Series. Now, his next series begins with a no-hitter thrown against his team. You can say it was just one game, but you wonder if this one game won't make the Reds feel as if they are trying to push a boulder uphill in the series.

They had the nerve, after failing to get a decent bat on the ball - with the exception of a third-inning line drive by pitcher Travis Wood - to complain about umpire John Hirschbeck's strike zone. Orlando Cabrera whined about it. Scott Rolen didn't comment after his three-strikeout night, but he barked at the umpire after being called out on strikes in the fifth.

Here's what really good teams do in this situation: They tip their hats, give the guy credit and forget the game. Here's what teams that are unsure of themselves do: what the Reds did.

"I felt like it was really a pretty fair zone," Halladay said without emotion, even though the Reds were trying to taint his no-hitter. "From what I saw in between innings, they were calling the same pitches that I was getting."

It helps when you throw a first-pitch strike to 25 of the 28 hitters you face, and that as the game goes on and the frustration grows for the other team, you seem to get even better. Halladay needed just 17 pitches to get through the final two innings. Only two of them were out of the strike zone. There were two strikeouts among the last six batters, two pops fielded by infielders, a soft comebacker to the mound and the final out, a topper by leadoff hitter Brandon Phillips that nestled against his bat just in front of the plate. Carlos Ruiz picked it up gingerly and gunned to first to begin the celebration.

"Surreal" is how Halladay described the feeling after the last out, when Ruiz rushed out to embrace him and the whole team crowded around and the 46,411 in Citizens Bank Park waved their towels and told one another they had just seen history.

Halladay did earn himself a place in baseball lore with the postseason no-hitter, and he earned his team a momentum-building win in the process. If you have listened carefully to Halladay this season, as incredible as it sounds, the win means more than the no-hitter. He had great games before. He pitched a perfect game before. But he never won a postseason game before and after all those seasons of waiting, that is what meant the most.

"We're one game up," Halladay said. "We've got to win two more."

Your turn, Mr. Oswalt.

Contact columnist Bob Ford at 215-854-5842 or bford@phillynews.com.

Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/bobford.

Bob Ford, INQUIRER COLUMNIST

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