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What do you say when you're fresh off getting no-hit in the first game of the playoffs, looking totally helpless all the while? The classy approach would be to give total credit to the opposing pitcher for being at the top of his game and shutting you down as an offense. The alternate approach would be that taken by Reds shortstop Orlando Cabrera. Cabrera, on Roy Halladay's performance:
"he and the umpire pitched a no-hitter. He gave him every pitch. Basically, we had no chance."
One look at the strike zone map for the game shows that Halladay wasn't really getting much more help from umpire John Hirschbeck than the Reds were. Halladay was just doing a phenomenal job of pitching to the edges, as he always does, and that's what makes him so damn effective.
For other postgame quotes, we turn to Halladay himself:
"It’s surreal, it really is," Halladay said. "I just wanted to pitch here, to pitch in the postseason. To go out and have a game like that, it’s a dream come true."
"This is what you come here for," Halladay said. "It’s a good team, they know how to win. … It’s been a great year, a fun year, we obviously have a ways to go."
"I felt like we got in a groove early," Halladay said. "Carlos has been great all year, he helps me get into a rhythm early, throwing strikes."
The immediate response after you see a performance like Roy Halladay's tonight is to wonder where it ranks among performances all-time. Sometimes, it turns out the performances you watch don't measure up. Halladay's does.
You could debate something like this for ages - and some people most certainly will - but for the sake of keeping things simple, let's use a statistic called 'Game Score', which I will allow Wikipedia to define:
Game Score is a metric devised by Bill James to determine the strength of a pitcher in any particular baseball game.
Game score is based on a number of things, from strikeouts to runs allowed. Halladay's no-hitter racked up a game score of 94. Where does that place when you look at all other starts throughout playoff baseball history?
Turns out it places pretty high. Here's the list, courtesy of Baseball-Reference:
You might be surprised to see baseball's only playoff no-hitters (and one perfect game) tied for fourth, rather than first. Clemens struck out 15 batters in a nine-inning shutout, while McNally struck out 11 in an 11-inning shutout, and Ruth struck out four while allowing one run over 14 frames.
Of course, this doesn't definitively prove anything. Based on Cincinnati's weak contact and lack of line drives, Halladay's start very well might've been better than those starts in front of him. You also have to consider the quality of competition. But I don't have an answer to that. There's no right or wrong answer to this. All that matters is that Roy Halladay is now in the argument. Because of his effort tonight, Roy Halladay is in the argument for having thrown the best start in MLB playoff history.
There are a lot of angles you could use to kick off a recap about Roy Halladay's playoff no-hitter, but for me, the most compelling thing was how easy he made it look.
It was the fourth inning. It was in the top of the fourth that the TBS announcers started talking about Halladay's perfect game in Florida from earlier this year, and about Don Larsen's World Series perfect game in 1956. Ordinarily, you'd chastise a broadcast for making those kinds of allusions so early in a game, but truth be told, there was a vibe, there. As Roy Halladay went to work, there was a feeling. He always throws great stuff. He always has great location. Today, he was extra-great. Extra-him.
It says something that the hardest-hit ball against Halladay all game long came off the bat of pitcher Travis Wood. It wasn't that Wood necessarily hit the ball with tremendous force. It was more that Halladay just wasn't even giving Reds hitters a chance. Everybody was on the defensive. Everybody was guessing. Nobody owned the batter's box. Nobody, that is, except Roy Halladay.
It's worth noting that Halladay wouldn't have won in nine innings were it not for some offensive support, and the Phillies certainly did a good job of knocking Cincinnati starter Edinson Volquez out of the game early on. Shane Victorino doubled and scored on a sac fly in the bottom of the first, and in the bottom of the second, Halladay himself came through with an RBI line drive before Victorino came up again and laced a two-run, bases-loaded single to center. Victorino's base hit gave the Phillies a 4-0 lead, and it sent Volquez to the dugout.
The Phillies didn't score after that, and really didn't threaten, but it didn't matter. Not with Halladay on the mound. Every passing inning just felt easier than the inning before, and that feeling that it was too early to think about a no-hitter disappeared completely somewhere around the fifth or the sixth, at which point it became clear just how well Halladay was pitching. Sure, he walked Jay Bruce. Halladay actually had a perfect game going through his first 14 hitters before the base on balls. But the neat thing about perfect games is that even a walk doesn't ruin them, because you get to fall back on a no-hitter. Halladay had perfect game stuff, but he'll probably settle for this instead.
104 pitches. 79 strikes. You know what's remarkable? After 2297.1 regular season innings, this was the first playoff appearance of Roy Halladay's career. I don't know that this proves that playoff experience is irrelevant, but it certainly proves that Roy Halladay is impervious to circumstances that might make a lesser man weak in the knees. Roy Halladay looked like Roy Halladay. Roy Halladay looked like a better Roy Halladay. I guess maybe he'd been saving his strength for this.
Ultimately, this was one game. One win. Halladay could've thrown a no-hitter, or a four-hitter, or a twelve-hitter, and the only true significance is that the Phillies are up in the series 1-0. You have to figure this sends a message, though. The Reds came in knowing they were considered underdogs, and they came in knowing that everyone figured they'd buckle against the Phillies' Big Three. The Reds probably fed off that and came in feeling confident. But now what? The Reds led the NL in home runs and OPS, and they just got no-hit in the first game of the playoffs. You wonder about the mood in that clubhouse. You wonder about how well they'll come out swinging the bats on Friday. Roy Oswalt isn't Roy Halladay, but Roy Oswalt's damn good, and he won't make it easy.
We'll see how the Reds respond. In the meantime, we'll all get to reflect on arguably the greatest postseason start ever thrown. Said Tigers infielder Will Rhymes earlier this evening:
baseball looks very easy on tv. I can assure you it is not.
Roy Halladay could've fooled me.
It was surely an accident, as Phillips threw the bat down and sprinted off to first as soon as he made contact. The bat, though, still landed in front of the ball, and the ball rolled forward and hit it before catcher Carlos Ruiz picked it up and threw to first from his knees for the final out.
The official rule in a situation like this is that it's up to umpire judgment as to whether or not the act was intentional. Had John Hirschbeck decided that Phillips dropped his bat in the ball's path on purpose, he could've called him out right there. It's better this way, though. This way, there's no controversy.
The ninth was almost as easy as the eighth. Roy Halladay got Ramon Hernandez to pop out on two pitches, got Miguel Cairo to foul out on five, and got Brandon Phillips to tap weakly in front of the plate on three. The end result? A playoff no-hitter - the second no-hitter of Halladay's 2010 season, and the only postseason no-hitter in MLB history other than Don Larsen's perfect game in 1956.
We will have much more in this stream shortly.
In the words of my editor: "That was as easy as it gets." Roy Halladay's no-hitter is very much alive and well, and we're now through eight innings of work. The top of the eighth was so simple that you might've missed it if you got up for a glass of water. There were seven pitches. All of them strikes. Two of them for strikeouts. I mean, for real?
-J. Gomes strkeout
-J. Bruce ground out
-D. Stubbs strikeout
That's eight innings and 94 pitches, 71 of them for strikes. For those of you wondering, yes, Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series is the only no-hitter thrown in playoff history. Roy Halladay is now three outs away from doubling the group's number of members.
And this train keeps rolling. Roy Halladay needed a full 18 pitches to get through the top of the seventh, but the end result was the same - three batters, three outs, and a continued no-hitter. The inning:
-O. Cabrera ground out
-J. Votto ground out
-S. Rolen strikeout
Halladay's at 87 pitches through seven frames, and he's got Jonny Gomes, Jay Bruce, and Drew Stubbs due up in the eighth. Given how he's pitching, the feeling is such that it would be an upset if he didn't finish the job. The Reds have a tall task ahead of them if they want to avoid a most embarrassing achievement.
Did I mention it's been raining?
We're inching ever closer to history. Roy Halladay needed all of eight pitches to do the following in the top of the sixth:
-R. Hernandez fly out
-J. Francisco ground out
-B. Phillips fly out
Halladay's now at six innings and 69 pitches without allowing a hit. The Reds have replaced Travis Wood with reliever Logan Ondrusek, but at this point, hardly anybody is paying attention to what the Phillies do at the plate, since they're already armed with a fairly sizable lead. Bottom halves of innings just serve as delays before upper halves of innings can resume. This is the Roy Halladay show, and he's gunning for history.
After consecutive strikeouts, the Reds were able to pick up their first baserunner of the game when Jay Bruce worked a six-pitch walk. Drew Stubbs then stranded him with a grounder to short, and through five innings of work, Roy Halladay hasn't allowed a hit on 61 pitches. While sounding the alarm after five innings might seem a little hasty, Halladay's been that good. He has the right feel, if that means anything.
You'll recall, of course, that Halladay threw a perfect game against the Marlins on May 29th, and spun a two-hitter against the Nationals on September 27th in his most recent start. The Phillies got him for a reason, and he's showing what that reason is with every single pitch.
The good news for the Reds is that rookie Travis Wood has been very effective in relief of Edinson Volquez. Since inheriting Volquez's jam in the second, Wood has retired seven of the nine batters he's faced, with one of them drawing an intentional walk. Wood has two strikeouts and 21 strikes thrown out of 31 non-IBB pitches.
Here's the problem: Roy Halladay looks as good as he's ever looked. Halladay's line through four innings:
He's hitting every spot and missing every fat part of every bat, and the focus for the Reds right now can't be trying to score a run - the focus should probably be on getting someone on base. Thus far, Halladay looks impossible.
Stop me if you've heard this before: Roy Halladay set his opponent down 1-2-3 in the top of the second. He needed just 12 pitches to strike out Scott Rolen, and then get Jonny Gomes and Jay Bruce to ground out. Halladay's perfect through two, with 22 pitches and 17 strikes.
That wouldn't be the end of the world for Cincinnati, were Edinson Volquez in turn able to keep the Phillies quiet. Unfortunately, Volquez ran into more trouble in the second. He issued a two-out, four-pitch walk to Carlos Ruiz. He then got Wilson Valdez to hit a weak grounder up the middle, but it was placed perfectly, and Orlando Cabrera was unable to make a flip to second base.
And then Roy Halladay stepped in.
Halladay jumped on a first-pitch heater and ripped a line drive to right, the ball coming down just in front of Jonny Gomes. The single scored Ruiz from second, putting the Phillies on top 2-0 and only breathing more life into an already frenzied ballpark atmosphere.
Volquez proceeded to walk Jimmy Rollins on eight pitches to load the bases, and he subsequently allowed a line drive single to center off the bat of Shane Victorino to score two more. At that point, Dusty Baker decided he'd had enough, and he went out to make a pitching change. In the bottom of the second inning, Travis Wood is on in relief of Edinson Volquez, and the Reds are trailing Roy Halladay and the Phillies by four.
Volquez got five outs while allowing six baserunners and throwing 56 pitches. If nothing else, this should help keep him fresh for his next start, should he make one.
It should come as little surprise that Roy Halladay made a breeze of the top of the first. Instantly sharp, Halladay induced a first-pitch groundout from Brandon Phillips, a harmless fly out from Orlando Cabrera, and a weak jammed grounder from Joey Votto. Halladay threw 10 pitches - seven strikes - and returned to the dugout without breaking a sweat.
Edinson Volquez didn't have it so easy. Volquez retired Jimmy Rollins to lead off, but Shane Victorino took a 1-2 outside changeup and laced it into left field for a double. Victorino promptly stole third, narrowly beating the throw from Ramon Hernandez, and scored on a sac fly off the bat of Chase Utley. The Phillies didn't do any more damage, but it took them all of one inning to take the lead, and Volquez missed enough spots to suggest that he might not have a great feel for the ball today.
Not the start the Reds wanted. Obviously, it could've been worse, but you don't want to be facing a deficit after 15 minutes.
10/06/10 2:07 PM PDT
|Cincinnati Reds||Philadelphia Phillies|
|Brandon Phillips - 2B||Jimmy Rollins - SS|
|Orlando Cabrera - SS||Shane Victorino - CF|
|Joey Votto - 1B||Chase Utley - 2B|
|Scott Rolen - 3B||Ryan Howard - 1B|
|Jonny Gomes - LF||Jayson Werth - RF|
|Jay Bruce - RF||Raul Ibanez - LF|
|Drew Stubbs - CF||Carlos Ruiz - C|
|Ramon Hernandez - C||Wilson Valdez - 3B|
|Edinson Volquez - P||Roy Halladay - P|
|2010 - Edinson Volquez||4-3||12||12||0||0||0||0||62.2||59||30||30||6||35||67||4.31||1.50|
|2010 - Roy Halladay||21-10||33||33||9||4||0||0||250.2||231||74||68||24||30||219||2.44||1.04|
Big news out of Philadelphia, where the Reds have caught something of a break - Placido Polanco is not in the lineup, and utility infielder Wilson Valdez will start at third base. Polanco is apparently dealing with a back injury, in addition to the bone spur in his elbow that he already had.
Valdez got a lot of playing time in 2010, on account of Jimmy Rollins' health problems, but he doesn't bring Polanco's bat, nor the defensive comfort at the hot corner.
The Phillies, who are vying to become the first NL team to reach the World Series in three straight years since the 1942-44 St. Louis Cardinals, enter the postseason on the heels of their fourth straight National League East title.
Philadelphia overcame a ton of injuries in its lineup this season to post 97 wins, as it finished with the best record in major league baseball for the first time in franchise history.
A big reason behind the team's success is the man who will be taking the ball for them tonight; NL Cy Young Award front-runner Roy Halladay, who will be making his first-ever postseason appearance.
"It's definitely something I've thought about a lot, but, you know, I think since we've got ourselves into the playoffs, it's been more of a preparation mode than anything, and that's been great for me," said Halladay of his first playoff start.
After 12 years in Toronto, Halladay was traded to the Phillies this past offseason and has been nothing short of brilliant. The talented right-hander exceeded expectations, as he tossed a perfect game on May 29 and finished with a 21-10 mark to go along with a 2.44 ERA. He also led the majors in complete games (nine), shutouts (four) and innings (250 2/3).
"I think he's starving, all right," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "He's intense and he wants it. I mean, he wants it. This guy's for real. He loves the game and he wants to be on a winner. He wants a ring. I think he's going to give everything he's got.
Halladay faced the Reds twice this season. He gave up four runs and 13 hits in a loss in the first meeting, before scattering five hits in nine scoreless innings of a no-decision back on July 10.
"I'm going to give up hits at times. That's part of who I am," Halladay added. "I think if I can control that to a certain extent and control the damage of it, I think that is a big factor. So yeah, I'm going to continue to be aggressive, continue to challenge guys, but I'm going to try to do it on my pitches, get quick outs, get outs on quality pitches, and I think that's the biggest the biggest difference."
Philadelphia's vaunted lineup went through its share of ups and downs in the regular season for sure. All the big sluggers -- Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins -- spent time on the disabled list, and Jayson Werth, playing in the final year on his contract, trailed off on several occasions. The team, however, still scored the second most runs in the NL at 772.
When the Phillies look across the field Wednesday night at Cincinnati they might see a glimpse of themselves from the 2007 campaign. That fresh-faced squad ended more than a decade of not winning a division title and seemed ecstatic just to be there. Philadelphia was swept in the first round of the playoffs and used that experience to win it all in 2008. A loss to the New York Yankees in the 2009 World Series is something the Phillies are trying to forget this time around, though.
The Reds know what it feels like to overcome pressure and are in the postseason for the first time since 1995. They battled St. Louis almost the entire season for NL Central supremacy and now face an even tougher challenge with the Phillies.
Cincinnati may be short on playoff experience, but showed a lot of heart and confidence this past season. MVP candidate Joey Votto was clutch and led the Senior Circuit in slugging percentage at .600, finished second in batting with a .324 average, was third in homers with 37 and third with 113 runs batted in. Votto's season was incredible and Cincinnati will be counting on the first baseman to come through this fall.
Votto's terrific campaign helped the Reds lead the National League in average (.272), runs scored (790), RBI (761), home runs (188) and slugging percentage (.436).
Getting caught up in the moment is probably what killed Philadelphia's buzz back in 2007. Cincy is counting on Edinson Volquez to keep the momentum going when he takes the ball for Game 1 against Halladay only a year removed from Tommy John surgery.
Volquez, a right-hander, said he'll be ready for the noise and deafening shouts from the crowd because he's been through it before in the Dominican Republic. Volquez, who won 17 games and made the All-Star team during his breakout 2008 season, returned after the All-Star break and went 4-3 in 12 starts.
"[Johnny] Cueto has been pitching the whole year and has done good, Bronson Arroyo, too, and [Travis] Wood and Homer Bailey," Volquez said. "I will do my best. We're trying to win the first game because it's very important."
After winning two of three meetings with the Phillies at Great American Ball Park from June 28-30, the Reds were swept in four games at Citizens Bank Park more than a week later from July 8-11. Cincinnati has not scored in 20 innings at Philly and has not won in six games there dating back to 2009.
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