PHILADELPHIA - Talk about a postseason debut.
Roy Halladay threw the second no-hitter in postseason history, leading the Philadelphia Phillies over the Cincinnati Reds, 4-0, in Game 1 of the National League Division Series on Wednesday.
Don Larsen was the only previous pitcher to throw a postseason no-hitter. He threw a perfect game for the New York Yankees in the 1956 World Series against Brooklyn. The 54th anniversary of Larsen’s gem is Friday.
“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.”
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Halladay took the Year of the Pitcher into the postseason. The excitement spread beyond Citizens Bank Park – the last two outs were shown on the video board at Target Field, where the Twins were preparing to play the Yankees, and Minnesota fans cheered.
The All-Star right-hander, who threw a perfect game at Florida on May 29, dominated the Reds with a sharp fastball and a devastating slow curve in his first playoff start.
The overmatched Reds never came close to a hit. Halladay allowed only one runner, walking Jay Bruce on a full count with two outs in the fifth, and struck out eight.
Halladay spent 12 seasons with Toronto, far from the postseason. A trade last offseason took him to the defending two-time National League champion, giving him this chance.
“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.”
With a sellout crowd standing in the ninth and chanting “Let’s Go, Doc!” Halladay got a loud ovation when he jogged to the mound to start the inning.
Leadoff batter Ramon Hernandez popped out to second baseman Chase Utley. Pinch-hitter Miguel Cairo then fouled out to third baseman Wilson Valdez.
Halladay then retired Brandon Phillips on a tapper in front of the plate to end it. Catcher Carlos Ruiz pounced on the ball, getting down on one knee as the ball rolled near Phillips’ bat, and made a strong throw for the final out.
Halladay pumped his fist into his glove as Ruiz rushed to the mound. Just like catcher Yogi Berra
“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.”
Phillies aces Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels ran out of the dugout side-by-side to congratulate the other member of Philadelphia’s Big 3. Pretty soon, everyone in a Phillies uniform was part of the victory party.
Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins made the toughest play to preserve the no-hitter, going deep in the hole and making a strong throw to retire Joey Votto in the fourth.
Pitcher Travis Wood hit a sinking liner to right that Jayson Werth caught in the third. Pinch-hitter Juan Francisco hit a hard grounder up the middle in the sixth, but Rollins scooted over and made it look easy.
There were five no-hitters in the majors this season as pitchers dominated. But five no-hit bids got broken up in the ninth inning, too.
Halladay became the fifth pitcher to throw two no-hitters in the same year. (See chart, B1)
The last pitcher to come close to a no-hitter in the postseason was Boston’s Jim Lonborg, who went 72/3 innings against St. Louis in the 1967 World Series. Julian Javier broke up it with a double in the eighth.
The Phillies led the majors in wins (97) for the first time in franchise history, captured their fourth consecutive division title, and are trying to become the first NL team in 66 years to win three consecutive pennants.
They are prohibitive favorites in this best-of-five sereies against the NL Central champion Reds, who are making their first postseason appearance since 1995.
Game 2 is Friday at Philadelphia.
The Reds had the NL’s best offense this season, leading in average (.272), homers (188) and runs (790). But they couldn’t do anything against Halladay, who won 21 games and is a strong candidate to win his second Cy Young Award.
Halladay, 33, topped the NL in victories and led the majors in innings, shutouts and complete games. He was at the top of his game from the start Wednesday.
He threw first-pitch strikes to 17 of the first 18 batters.
Halladay even contributed at the plate. He ignited a three-run, two-out rally in the second with an RBI single.
On the opposite side, 27-year-old Edinson Volquez looked like a postseason rookie. He never seemed to get comfortable, taking his time between pitches, tugging at his cap and long dreadlocks and breathing deeply. At one point, Hernandez, from his crouched position behind the plate, motioned for him to calm down.
Volquez allowed four runs and four hits in 12/3 innings. The hard-throwing right-hander was 4-3 in 12 starts this season after returning from elbow surgery.
Halladay was so eager to join the Phillies that he passed up a chance to test free agency after this season and signed a $60 million, three-year extension.
Roy Halladay is the fifth pitcher to throw two no-hitters in the same year. They are:
Roy Halladay, Phillies 2010
Nolan Ryan, Calif. Angels 1973
Virgil Trucks, Tigers 1952
Allie Reynolds, Yankees 1951
Johnny Vander Meer, Reds 1938
THIS YEAR'S NO-HITTERS
Ubaldo Jimenez, Colorado at Atlanta, 4-0, April 17
Dallas Braden, Oakland vs. Tampa Bay, 4-0, May 9 (perfect game)
Roy Halladay, Philadelphia at Florida, 1-0, May 29 (perfect game)
Edwin Jackson, Arizona at Tampa Bay, 1-0, June 26
Matt Garza, Tampa Bay vs. Detroit, 5-0, July 26
Halladay, Philadelphia vs. Cincinnati, 4-0, Oct. 6 (NL Division Series)