Halladay no-hits Reds in opener
PHILADELPHIA — In a glass case at Citizens Bank Park is a bronze cast of Roy Halladay’s right hand. It holds an official baseball, stamped with a hologram, commemorating his perfect game this May.
Halladay did not allow a runner to reach base that night, and the Phillies must have thought that was the greatest game he could pitch. But considering the setting yesterday, he found a way to top himself.
Halladay threw the second no-hitter in postseason history and the first since Don Larsen’s perfect game for the Yankees in the 1956 World Series. He thwarted the Cincinnati Reds, the top-scoring team in the National League this season, in a 4-0 victory in Game 1 of their division playoff series.
Halladay allowed only one base runner, on a walk to Jay Bruce with two out in the fifth inning, and only a few hard-hit balls. He struck out eight, with exceptional command of his two-seam fastball, cutter, curveball, and changeup.
The game was bound to be memorable for Halladay, a decorated righthander who had labored for 12 years with the also-ran Toronto Blue Jays until a trade to the Phillies last December. His 320 career starts were the most of any active pitcher who had never appeared in the postseason.
“It was fun,’’ Halladay said last week, after shutting out the Washington Nationals to clinch the NL East title. “But it’s only going to get funner.’’
Halladay could not have known the truth in that inelegant comment. He learned early in his career how difficult a no-hitter could be, losing one with two out in the ninth inning of his second start as a rookie in 1998. It took until this May 29, on the road against the Florida Marlins, for Halladay to throw a no-hitter. He did it in style, with the 20th perfect game in major league history.
His achievement yesterday made Halladay the fifth pitcher in major league history to throw two no-hitters in the same season. The others are Johnny Vander Meer of the Reds in 1938, Allie Reynolds of the Yankees in 1951, Virgil Trucks of the Detroit Tigers in 1952, and Nolan Ryan of the California Angels in 1973.
It also continued a trend in the majors this season. Halladay’s gem was the sixth no-hitter, one shy of the single-season major league record.
Halladay, 33, went 21-10 this season, leading the league in innings and complete games, and he is expected to win his second Cy Young Award. He has been everything the Phillies could have hoped for when they traded three prospects to Toronto to get him, then signed him to a contract extension that could be worth $80 million over four years.
The move was something of a gamble for the Phillies, who simultaneously traded their 2009 ace, Cliff Lee, to the Seattle Mariners.
The Phillies added another ace, Roy Oswalt, in a July trade with Houston. Oswalt, who will start Game 2 tomorrow, and Cole Hamels give the Phillies outstanding depth behind Halladay, and that has made them the favorite to win the World Series.
But even among aces, Halladay stands above.
“He’s got probably four of the best pitches in baseball,’’ Oswalt said. “All four of his pitches he can throw at any time. When you can do that in the big leagues, you’re going to create a lot of havoc for the opposing hitter.’’
Even, as Halladay showed, when facing the team that led the National League in batting average, runs, hits, and homers. The Reds battered him for 13 hits on June 30, but there were signs that Halladay could dominate them.
He struck out 10 Reds that day without a walk, and tossed nine shutout innings against them at home two starts later. His opponent that night was rookie Travis Wood, who took a perfect game into the ninth inning but had no decision to show for it.
Wood faced Halladay for much of yesterday’s game, after relieving Edinson Volquez with the Phillies leading, 4-0, in the second inning. Halladay had knocked in the second run, on a sinking, two-out liner that bounced in front of sliding left fielder Jonny Gomes.
The final out came on a dribbler in front of the plate by Brandon Phillips. It nicked Phillips’s bat, and catcher Carlos Ruiz dropped to his knees to field it. But Ruiz threw to first for the out, then embraced a beaming Halladay in front of the mound. The Phillies and Halladay hope it is only the first celebration of an already magical postseason.