|Phillies teammates rush to congratulate Roy Halladay after he added a perfect game to an already impressive season. (Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press)|
Phillies’ Halladay throws perfect game
MIAMI — Philadelphia Phillies ace Roy Halladay threw the 20th perfect game in major league history, delivering the marquee performance of his All-Star career in a 1-0 win over the Florida Marlins last night.
It was the second perfect game in the majors this month alone, unheralded Dallas Braden doing it for Oakland against Tampa Bay May 9. It’s the first time in the modern era that there were a pair of perfectos in the same season — Colorado’s Ubaldo Jimenez threw a no-hitter, too, in April.
Halladay struck out 11, then got pinch-hitter Ronny Paulino to ground out to end it, and was cheered by a crowd of 25,086 throughout much of the night.
“I don’t know what to say,’’ Halladay said. “Early in my bullpen I was hitting spots more than I have been. I felt like I just carried that out there.’’
While there were a couple of good plays behind him — shortstop Wilson Valdez went deep into the hole for a grounder, backup third baseman Juan Castro went to his knees for another — Halladay didn’t need any great defensive work in this gem.
The 33-year-old righthander known as “Doc’’ was a veritable one-man show.
Always stoic on the mound, Halladay (7-3) broke into a big smile as his teammates rushed in to congratulate him.
Halladay has long been dominant, and the former AL Cy Young winner was the centerpiece of a multiteam trade that brought him from Toronto to the two-time NL champions in the offseason.
He was within one out of a no-hitter Sept. 27, 1998, in just his second major league start, pitching for the Blue Jays against Detroit. Pinch-hitter Bobby Higginson ended that on the first pitch he saw, hitting a solo home run.
Halladay faced three pinch-hitters in the ninth. Mike Lamb led off with a long fly ball, but Shane Victorino had plenty of time to backtrack in the super-spacious outfield at Sun Life Stadium and squeeze it for the first out.
After Wes Helms struck out, the crowd filled with Phillies fans simply began to roar.
From there, it was all up to Paulino, who fouled the first pitch into the seats along the first-base side, took ball one, swung and missed for strike two, and at 9:23 p.m., hit a ground ball. Castro ranged to his left to get it and threw across to first baseman Ryan Howard, who caught the ball and jumped in the air.
It was over, and the Phillies mobbed Halladay, surrounding him in a circle as stadium workers immediately — and inexplicably — ran out to sweep the mound and plate area.
Halladay went to either 3-1 or 3-2 counts seven times, twice in the game’s first three batters.
In a week that saw the hard-hitting Phillies get shut out on three straight days by the New York Mets, Halladay delivered the most masterful pitching performance of all.
On the short list of baseball’s perfect games, there are the first two: John Richmond and John Ward pitched them five days apart in 1880, two decades before what is considered the modern era.
This was the Phillies’ second perfect game, with Jim Bunning having thrown one in 1964. Philadelphia has thrown 10 no-hitters, the last by Kevin Millwood in 2003.
It was the second time the Marlins had been no-hit in their history, the lone other coming by the Dodgers’ Ramon Martinez on July 14, 1995.
Halladay credited catcher Carlos Ruiz for a smooth ride.
“We felt like we got in a groove early and about the the fifth or the sixth I was just following Chooch,’’ he said. “I can’t say enough about the job he did today. Mixed pitches. For me it was really a no-brainer.’’
The NL East leaders’ lone run off Josh Johnson (5-2) came in the third, and fittingly in this battle of aces, it was unearned. Valdez singled, then scored when Chase Utley’s fly to center skipped off Cameron Maybin’s glove for a three-base error. Valdez scored easily, and Halladay had all the support he needed.
The Philadelphia Flyers’ return to the Stanley Cup finals last night got upstaged in a big way. NBC broke into its coverage of the Game 1 of the Flyers-Blackhawks matchup to show a replay of the final out.
There have now been three perfect games in the last 10 months, with Mark Buehrle doing it last July 23 for the Chicago White Sox against Tampa Bay.