Roy "Doc" Halladay had to wait 12-plus years to get his first taste of the postseason. He'll have to wait a little longer to give up his first hit. One doesn't think that he'll mind the wait.
The Phillies ace was completely masterful in his playoff debut, throwing only the second postseason no-hitter in baseball history. As most baseball fans can tell you, the first "no-no" was a perfect game authored by Yankees right-hander Don Larsen in the 1956 World Series.
One notable difference between the two men: Larsen was a journeyman who compiled an 81-91 lifetime record. Halladay, who is expected to notch his second Cy Young Award this year for his work in the regular season, is considered by many to be the best pitcher in the game.
Pitching before a raucous, sellout home crowd of red-and-white towel-waiving fans, Halladay completely baffled and overpowered the Cincinnati Reds, who are statistically (tops in batting average, homers, and runs scored) the best hitting team in the National League.
Per the AP sports recap, first baseman and likely MVP Joey Votto said admiringly, "It’s no fun out there. It’s like trying to hit nothing. He’s an ace among aces.”
As for Doc, he typically gave credit to his catcher, Carlos Ruiz. “I felt like we got in a groove early,” Halladay observed. “Carlos has been great all year, he helps me get into a rhythm early, throwing strikes.”
And what a rhythm it was. Halladay thew only 104 pitches, a staggering 79 of them for strikes. He started all but four of his 28 opposing batters with strikes. Even when the Reds hitters swung at his first offerings, they couldn't do anything with them, due to the ace's combination of velocity, mix of speeds, location and late movement.
The only blemish on Halladay's night was a fifth-inning walk to rightfielder Jay Bruce, the lone Reds player to reach base. So Doc will have to wait till at least his next playoff start to throw a perfect game—to match the one he recorded against the Marlins on May 29.
Every now and then, baseball cliches show why they have become cliches: They are true.
Pitching Cliche #1: Pitching is much easier when you throw a strike on your first pitch.
Halladay started 17 of his 18 first batters with strike one. Reds starter Edison Volquez, also making his postseason debut, had great stuff that he could not control. He threw 56 pitches, only 32 for strikes in his very brief 1.2 innings of work. He walked two batters, which set up the Phillies big, three-run second inning.
It just so happened that Roy Halladay had a pretty good night at the plate as well. The Phillies had scored a run in the bottom of the first when Chase Utley hit a sacrifice fly that plated Shane Victorino who had doubled and stolen third.
In the second inning, Ruiz coaxed a two-out walk, and advanced on an infield hit by Wilson Valdez (playing third for an injured Placido Polanco.) In his first-ever postseason plate appearance, Halladay got just enough of a Volquez pitch to line it in front of leftfielder Johnny Gomes. 2-0 Phils. Halladay and Valdez would then score on a Victorino line drive to center.
With Halladay mastering his full arsenal of pitches, the game was effectively over then. Correction: it was over when Victorino scored the first run in the bottom of the first.
Pitching Cliche # 2: Just like real estate, pitching is all about three things: location, location, location.
Unlike Volquez, who could not locate his pitches for strikes and was wild within the strike zone, the Phils ace had pinpoint control all night. Halladay reminded one of a vintage Greg Maddux, only six inches taller and possessing a fastball with more bite.
On a night when the Phillies managed only five hits—just one after Volquez was sent to the showers—Halladay made it look so easy. In retrospect, it seems ludicrous to consider that Phillies Nation was asking two things about its ace before the game:
- Would he react positively to the pressure of pitching his first playoff game?
- Would he be able to overcome an apparently tired arm, due to his 250.2 innings of yeoman work (tops in the majors this year)?
In the understatement of the decade, this writer would say that the Phillies ace more than aced his test.
- Victorino's first-inning double made him the Phillies career postseason leader in hits
- TBS posted a stat that Jayson Werth led the NL this year with 85 two-strike hits.
- Again, from TBS: The Phillies were an overwhelming 64-13 this year when they scored the first run. Just imagine what their overall record would have been this year if they had a true leadoff hitter.
- Best signs spotted in the crowd included: "It's Doctober" and "Got Playoff Fever? Call Doc."
- Halladay led all NL starters with a 7.3 K/BB ratio (219/30). Way back in second place was Marlins ace Josh Johnson at 3.88. The best ratio in the major leagues this year was turned in by old Philly favorite Cliff Lee who compiled a K/BB ratio of 10.3—185 strikeouts to only 18 walks. Didn't think that was humanly possible.
- Speaking of Lee, on any other night, he would have had the best performance. The lanky southpaw looked predictably sharp and cool in leading his Texas Rangers to a Game 1 5-1 victory over David Price and the host Tampa Rays. Lee pitched out of a bases-loaded one out (3-1 count) jam in the bottom of the first by striking out the next two batters. He then cruised through the next 5 innings before giving up a solo shot to Ben Zobrist in the seventh. Lee's line: 7 IP, 1 run (earned), 5 hits, 10 K's, 0 BB's. Not too shabby. Lee ran his career postseason record to 5-0.
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