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Griffin: Phillies’ Roy Halladay hurls no-hitter in first playoff start

In Canada on October 7, 2010 at 00:33
Back to Griffin: Phillies’ Roy Halladay hurls no-hitter in first playoff start

Griffin: Phillies’ Roy Halladay hurls no-hitter in first playoff start

October 06, 2010

Richard Griffin


Phillies starter Roy Halladay, right, celebrates with catcher Carlos Ruiz after throwing a no-hitter to defeat the Cincinnati Reds 4-0 during Game 1 of the NLDS on Wednesday.

Matt Slocum/AP


As he emerged alone from the training room in the Philadelphia Phillies’ clubhouse, Roy Halladay leaned over and kissed his two boys on the top of their heads and smiled. Thursday is an off-day and also his son’s sixth birthday. And oh yeah, he had just no-hit the Cincinnati Reds in Game 1 of the NL division series. Could life get any better for the 33-year-old in his first post-season?

“If you don’t go (to the playoffs), you’re always thinking about being there,” Halladay said of his frustration in a Blue Jays uniform. “The longer you go, the more you think about it. It’s been everything I thought it would be. It’s nice to be able to do it in front of family and friends. My family is here and my friends are on the team. We won Game 1 and we have to get ready for the rest of the series.”

It’s the stuff of which baseball legends are made: Halladay and Don Larsen mentioned in the same breath, with the only two no-hitters in post-season history, fully 54 years apart. Twenty-eight batters, 25 first-pitch strikes, four pitches working for him, one complete playoff game under his belt and still no hits. Oh yes, he singled and drove in a run, too. Where does he take it from here?

“You just go out and try and win,” Halladay said. “It’s a special thing you’ll always remember but the playoffs are the priority. There’s more to accomplish, more to come. It’s a challenge that I’ve looked forward to. I would say I was excited more than nervous.”

Halladay has waited his entire adult life for this moment and when it arrived, he capitalized. Pounding the strike zone and changing speeds with disarming precision, Halladay dazzled a Phillies crowd that had been skeptical when the deal with Toronto was made last December. Could Halladay possibly be as good as the departed Cliff Lee? Following his dominating no-hitter, the answer is an emphatic “Yes!” Halladay also pitched a perfect game on May 29, but that was on the road against the Marlins.

“When it gets that loud, it’s hard to ignore,” said the usually tunnel-visioned Halladay of the Philly faithful. “It was one of the most electric atmospheres I’ve ever been in. It was neat.”

But not gaudy. One can just imagine Halladay sitting back on his sofa last October, watching former Jays teammate A.J. Burnett thrash around in the deep end of the post-season, extending two different series by the fact of losing and counting on his fellow Yankees to throw him a ring. Doc is a better pitcher yet watched A.J. leave Toronto for a huge multi-year deal. Halladay needed — no, deserved — that same chance.

“I’m happy for Doc,” Phillies centre fielder Shane Victorino said. “It’s great. A perfect game in his first season and a no-hitter in his first playoff game. What a resumé. He knew what he wanted to do and he did it. We won Game 1 and now we’ve got to get ready for the rest of the series.”

On the other side of the field was another first-time participant in the post-season, the pride of Etobicoke, Reds first baseman Joey Votto. Both men grew up in Toronto, one physically and one in terms of maturity. Votto is the frontrunner for NL MVP while Halladay is odds-on to win the Cy Young Award. Either way, there was something for Canadian sports fans to appreciate and cheer for.

The ace pitcher vs. the hot hitter? That looked to be the case until the bottom of the second inning, when Halladay lined an Edinson Volquez fastball past short for a single to drive in batterymate Carlos Ruiz, who had drawn a two-out walk to start the damage.

Two batters later, Halladay took off from second base on a full count and raced around third on a Victorino single to centre, scoring easily. Halladay is already one post-season hit, RBI and run ahead of Votto. In a suddenly driving rain, he went back out to the mound and shut down the Reds. Through 4.2 innings he’d faced the minimum 14 batters, then walked Jay Bruce, the Reds’ only baserunner of the game.

“I’ve been in baseball 50 years and this is the first time I’ve seen a guy throw two no-hitters in a year,” manager Charlie Manuel enthused. “He was tremendous. Great command. Absolutely unreal.”

The three toughest plays were a line drive to right by Travis Wood that was handled by Jayson Werth, Votto’s seeing-eye grounder to short that looked as if it was going through into left field and a hard shot through the box by Juan Francisco that was slowed down by the upslope of the mound, just enough to allow smooth-fielding shortstop Jimmy Rollins to glide across and make the play.

Volquez, another playoff rookie, showed his jitters, just over a year removed from Tommy John surgery to his right elbow. Throwing his fastball at 97 m.p.h., Volquez was unable to command the strike zone. In the second inning he threw a total of 39 pitches and was unable to escape.

The Phillies have now won seven straight Game 1 decisions in the post-season. The Phillies’ last loss in a playoff series opener was Oct. 3, 2007 against the Rockies at Citizens Bank Park.

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