The AtHome Pilgrim

Musings at a Slower Pace

AtHomePilgrim

AtHomePilgrim
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"Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita," I find myself still asking some of the same questions I did when I was just a punk kid. The Big Things confuse me. Fortunately, though, many little things delight and amuse me, and some Big Things--my wife, our kids, our bird and bunny visitors, food, baseball--make me very, very happy. In my pilgrimage, I try to be guided by the wisdom of dear old Auntie Mame: "Life is a banquet!"

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OCTOBER 7, 2010 8:13AM

Dedicated Doc: Phils-Reds NLDS Game 1 Recap

Rate: 18 Flag

OK. I’m not going to recap every Phils playoff game, as I did last year: too busy right now. 

But, you know, last night something special happened, and I can’t let it go. (If you want an excellent summary of all three of yesterday’s games, see Andy Wolfenson’s post of today.)

But to understand how truly wonderful Roy Halladay’s no-hitter was, it helps to know the background.  

 

Roy Halladay pitched for the Toronto Blue Jays for 12 seasons. He established himself as one of the best pitchers in baseball, winning 20 games twice and capturing the American League Cy Young Award, as the league’s best pitcher, in 2003. 

He spent those 12 years on a team that was always looking up in the standings at the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox: his Blue Jays never did better than one second-place finish in the American League East. The last two years, they stumbled to fourth in the five-team division.

Halladay, now in his early thirties, could see his chances of pitching in the postseason—of winning a championship—evaporating. 

Then, last summer, opportunity dangled before him. The Philadelphia Phillies, coming off two playoff appearances and a World Series victory in 2008, were trying to trade for Halladay. Halladay’s career was on the precipice of a most welcome reboot. 

Then the trade fell through. Toronto’s general manager insisted that the Phils include a young prospect that they were unwilling to let go, and Phils general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr., traded with the Cleveland Indians for lefthanded starter Cliff Lee instead. 

Halladay’s dream of postseason baseball had been snatched away. 

Think of how Halladay must have felt in the fall, when the Phils made it to the World Series one more time, and Lee, pitching masterfully, won four games for them.   

 

In the offseason, the Phillies finally worked out a deal with Toronto to obtain Halladay. They were willing to make the trade—and give up the prospect that they had previously balked at sacrificing—for two reasons. First, Halladay is a tremendous pitcher. Second, he was willing to sign a contract extension that was worth far less than he could have gotten as a free agent. Halladay signed for just three years at $60 million—$20 million a year. The year before, C.C. Sabathia had signed with the New York Yankees for seven years at $161 million—$23 million a year. Halladay arguably gave up more money in salary than his contract was worth.* 

He just wanted a chance to win.  

 

Halladay arrived with a reputation for hard work and discipline. He proved that this reputation is well deserved throughout spring training, when he arrived every day at the Phils’ training complex at 5:30 in the morning, to begin his workouts. 

He proved it 33 times during the season, when he took the ball on his regular turn to pitch, threw his best, and then, forty-five minutes or so after the game, retired to the workout room to do his post-start workout.

He proved it in May, when he threw a perfect game against the Florida Marlins—retiring all 27 batters without allowing any to reach base—and then did his postgame workout.

He proved it a week and a half ago, when, with the opportunity to clinch the Phils’ NL East division title, he pitched a two-hit complete game shutout of the Washington Nationals and, when he finished, smiled on the field for only the second time in the entire season. 

Halladay had a great season. He went 21-10, sported an impressive 2.44 Earned Run Average, had a league-leading 9 complete games, threw 4 shutouts, led the National League in innings pitched with 250-2/3, and finished second in the league in strikeouts with 231. 

But what mattered to him was making the playoffs, finally having a chance to compete in the postseason, finally having a chance to be on a championship team.  

 

Last night, after 346 starts in his career and 13 long seasons, Roy Halladay started his first postseason game. He followed the same routine he always follows before a game.

Then he went out and made history, throwing a no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds to become only the second pitcher in history (Don Larsen being the first, in 1956) to pitch a no hitter in a postseason game. A fifth-inning walk was the only thing that prevented Halladay from matching Larsen’s perfect game. In the process, Halladay became the only pitcher in history to throw a no-hitter in both the regular season and the postseason the same year. (Four others have thrown two no-hitters in the same season.) 

Using all four of his pitches and working both sides of the plate (but never, as Reds manager Dusty Baker pointed out, the middle), Halladay shut down the Reds lineup—which was only the lineup that had led the National League in batting average, home runs, and runs this season. 

Halladay’s first pitch was a strike to 25 of the 28 batters he faced. He reached a three-ball count on just three batters in the game. Three. Of the 104 pitches he threw, 79 were strikes—a better than three-to-one ratio of strikes to balls. He struck out 8 batters and walked but 1. 

And those numbers do not tell how good he was. He didn’t just get the Reds out. He baffled them. They were flailing. They had no clue what pitch was coming or where it was going to be.  

 

What was Halladay’s response after the game when his teammates poured onto the mound to congratulate him for his achievement? “We’re one game up,” he told them. “We’ve got to win two more.” 

Later, after he did all the postgame interviews, Halladay finally went to his locker room in the Phils’ clubhouse. The team had left him a bottle of champagne, so he could celebrate his achievement.

Instead, he walked off into another room. Probably he was getting ready for his postgame workout.    

 

* Yes, I’d take $15 million a year, too. No, he’s not hurting. Yes, the salaries are obscene, as are those of actors, singers, and such like. No, I don’t feel bad for him. Yes, sports are silly and will not end racism, injustice, world hunger, or poverty. No, I will not stop watching them.  

 

Words © 2010 AtHome Pilgrim.

All Rights Reserved. 

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What an awesome game! R
Excellent post, as a reflection of an excellent pitching performance -and the background information makes me appreciate his efforts even more.

By the way, I too would take $15 million a year - perhaps we can jut split it, so we don't seem too greedy.
That was a kickin' pitching gem to watch.

They gotta put Rollins lower in the batting order, though.

My oldest boy is a Yankees fanatic. Can't wait for the Series between the Phils and the Yankees (although the Rangers might squeak-in).

(R)
What a game as I said last night. @CC I hope the Yanks don't make it, the Rangers do look really good, but the big Machine that is the Yankees is something I don't like to face as a Phils fan.
Nice recap AHP, now onto Friday..
P, the guy is all class. He used the term "we" when talking about the No-No. He mentioned his catcher a number of times. I watched him pitch and I don't think the guy can throw a straight pitch. The movement on his ball reminded me of Maddox, another sure-fire Hall-of-Famer!
It was an amazing game. Thanks for supplying some very interesting backgraound info, so I can appreciate his achievement even more. And congrats on the EP!
You can write about baseball every day. Wouldn't bother me none.

And Halladay. Wow. I've only seen a handful of pitchers make another team look so helpless. I bet the Yankees are already trying to figure out how to get him. If Ted Turner still owned the Braves, maybe we'd have the guy. A rotation of Halladay, Hudson and Hanson sounds pretty good. Well, I can dream can't I. It's either that or bitterness and envy.
I know the post season is not supposed to reflect on the votes for the Cy Young Award, but it would sure be hard for any voter who hasn't marked his ballot for Roy Halladay already to resist the temptation to change it after this.

It has to be great to be a Phillies fan right now.
Absolutely love this piece. Also am beginning to love this guy.
Yay ATP on the EP and cover! Great job baseball pal...
I'm a Yankees fan but still tip my cap to Roy for his accomplishment. Great to see one of the greatest pitchers in the game.
He still looked overwhelming in the 9th inning without breaking a sweat. It seemed like he could have pitched several more innings without giving up a hit.
The guy has been incredible. What if they would have kept Cliff Lee, too?
Great summary, Pilgrim. I have no TV right now (and haven't had cable for years), so until this weekend (when I'm a the beach) I'll be experiencing the playoffs like they did in the 1920s. So your summary was just right for me.
I almost understood all the figures. Not all, but most. Which is a good thing.
Lovely story, especially because it is true.
Now, did you notice how the headline: Halladay Hurls a No-Hitter is the closest OS has ever come to posting poetry on the cover? I mean, wicked alliteration.
Libmom: It was most excellently awesome.

Andy: I think that's a plan. Should I call Ruben, or will you call Brian?

JW: Eloquently put!

CC: Closest thing I've seen to this dominance is Bob Gibson in Game 1 of the 1968 World Series (when my team was the unfortunate dominee). Looks good for your son's guys so far, though G2 is still in progress.

rita: Don't want revenge?

Black Jack: (1) For someone so talented, he's remarkably humble and down to earth. You gotta like and respect him. (2) Time will tell. I worry about every game, until it's done. Although last night I didn't. By the top of the third, I knew he was home free, and I sensed (I know it's convenient to say that now, but I did) that he was on to something historic.

scanner: He and Chooch are totally on the same page. It's so cool--especially considering this is the first year they've worked together. During the whole game, he only shook of Chooch's called pitch once. Once. After the perfect game, the team gave Halladay a diamond-studded ring to commemorate it. He gave Chooch an identical ring, inscribed "We did it."

Faith: Thanks for coming by and enjoying. Glad you found it worthwhile.

T Mike: We've all been there at different times. The Yankees will certainly go after Lee this offseason. I kinda suspect they're not convinced that AJ Burnett is the answer to their problems. Good luck tonight, dude!

Henry: I think you're right! And, yes, it's fun to be a Phils fan right now--not just because they're playing good baseball but because they seem to respect the game and each other. But I was saying to my wife last night, I'm not going to be crushed if they don't win the whole thing. (Not happy, you know. But not crushed.) It's been a fun season. There have been some incredible thrills, and some history (like last night). They're competitive every night. That's enough, you know?

anna1: Good taste. ;)

kate: Ha! We need to think about that.

rita: The man did it. I just told the story. But thanks.

Nick: You have to respect such a performance--that's how I've always felt about Mariano.

Cranky: Several observers--and Chooch--and his pitching coach--all said he had better stuff than he had when he threw the perfect game. Imagine! (And I think at one point, in the dugout, Hamels turned to Oswalt and said "I'm glad I'm not pitching Game 2.")

Spuds: Well, then you wouldn't have been able to enjoy him on the Mariners for two or three months. So, you're welcome.

charlie: Baseball on the radio is the best--although it was fun to see how much his pitches moved. This was one case (sorry) where seeing was really worth it.

vanessa: I told you there's poetry in baseball! (No crying, but poetry.) Thanks for reading, kiddo. Really.
What is not to love about Roy Halladay? Except that he's a Phillie? (Philly? What's the singular of Phillies, Pilgrim?)
When my husband called my boys downstairs to watch all the excitement, I said to myself, "Pilgrim must be so happy right now!" :)
Ken: From your perspective, probably "Stinkin' Phil." ;)

Karin: Sweet of you to think that!
thanks for the recap. rated