Halladay no-hits Reds en route to Game 1 win

 

 

Photo: Yong Kim/ Philly.com

 

By SHAY RODDY
Managing Editor — sroddy@highhopesblog.com

________

He was a surgeon, threading the needle with his untouchable, swooping changeup. He dazzled hitters, putting the ball right on the black of the plate, just out of the path of their lingering lumber.

The ball dove. The ball rose. Its command, its motion all in his complete control.

Roy Halladay was a magician on the mound at Citizens Bank Park, unphased by the added importance and excitement of the postseason. He marveled, making the ball disappear right in front of the league’s best offensive hitter’s eyes.

When the Reds entered Citizens Bank Park for the opening round of the 2010 Postseason, they knew they would be up against quite the challenge, facing the Phils’ three big horses in Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels. But no one ever thought they could be this good.

For just the second time in postseason history, Roy Halladay tossed a no-hitter Thursday night at Citizens Bank Park. The no-no was the second chapter in Halladay’s incredible season, the first obviously being his perfecto back in May.

“I’ve never seen a guy throw two no-hitters in a season,” Phils manager Charlie Manuel said. In fact, it was only the third time in the history of baseball that such a feat has occurred.

And perhaps never has one come in a bigger moment than Thursday’s.

Halladay’s arsenal of pitches is extensive and impressive – fastball, cutter, changeup, curve, and subtle variations and combinations of those. He uses them all effectively, all confidently and all unpredictably.

A lot of that goes back to Carlos Ruiz, who Halladay gives almost all of the credit. Ruiz is the one who mixes the pitches and coaches Halladay through the trials and tribulations that 27 (or in tonight’s case 28) playoff hitters bring.

“Ruiz has done a good job of recognizing early on what’s working, what’s effective and calling that. The changeup has been a litle bit hit or miss for me last few times out and it was good today. He recognized that early and continued to call it through good situations,” Halladay said.

Halladay even got an RBI single en route to the 4-0 Phillies victory.  “Anytime you get a hit as a pitcher you’re going against the averages that’s for sure,” Halladay said. “You enjoy competing…. Playing the game is a lot of fun.”

However, Halladay, the ultimate team-player, knows there’s a lot more to accomplish beyond tonight’s game. “There’s more to come for us, more to accomplish,” Halladay noted. “I think that at this point we’re one game up and got to win two more. Like I said early in the year, these are types of things thst once the season’s over you’re able to soak in.”

As for his battery-mate? Halladay couldn’t credit him enough.

“Carlos, what can I say?” the doctor marveled.

For the catcher, it wasn’t exactly uncharted territory. “When I saw the scoreboard and it was no hit, I said, you gotta do the same thing you did in Florida I guess,” Ruiz told a huge crowd of reporters in the Phillies clubhouse. “Very good control for him. Very aggresive. That was a key. I had a great feeling because he was good today all game.”

The one low-point, if you can call it that, for Halladay came in the form of a sixth inning walk to Jay Bruce, who would be the only Reds hitter to reach base.

“With two strikes we tried to throw a sinker inside and it kind of stayed on its line it didn’t come back inside as much as it did earlier on in the game,” Halladay explained. “Then 3-2 we just tried to make a good quality pitch. You never want to give in you never want to throw a ball over the middle, but you’re still trying to make good pitches…. I got myself in a jam … and there were one or two that got away from me there.”

With the win, the Phillies jump to a 1-0 lead in the NLDS. But tonight, that seems to be the last thing on people’s minds.

“Pitching a game like that, being able to win the game comes first. That’s kind of your only focus till after its over with. Once it ends, it’s a little bit surreal to know some of that stuff.” Halladay said, after he was told that he joined Don Larsen as the only pitcher to throw a postseason no-no. “The best part about it is while your out there, your only job is to try and help your team win a game and I think if you can keep that focus on yourself and off the team that makes it a little easier.”

The final out wasn’t exactly routine, much like that of his perfecto in South Beach, which sent Wilson Valdez spinning and firing to first. Tonight, the ball collided with the dropped bat off a Brandon Phillips swinging bunt down the first base line (which by MLB rule is in play unless the umpire concludes that the batter-runner intentionally hit the ball with the bat). Ruiz gathered the ball and fired to first, falling to his knees in time to get Phillips by a step.

“Carlos made a great play. It definitely wasn’t an easy play. It couldn’t have happened to a better guy, to have Carlos get the last out,” Halladay smiled.

The atmosphere, leading up to that out was, as you could imagine, incredible. Couple playoff buzz with no-hitter excitement and you’re bound to have a loud ballpark. Halladay admits he couldn’t block out the volume. “When it gets that loud it’s hard to ignore, especially the last three innings. It seemed like it got louder every inning. It’s obviously one of the loudest atmospheres I’ve ever been in.”

For Halladay, it will go down as one of the biggest milestones of his career. “It was a lot of fun it’s just one of those special things I think you’ll always remember.”

But there is one sure way the postseason rookie can top the moment — by adding a ring to his jewelry collection.

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