PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Roy Halladay finished his warmup tosses and stood on the mound, waiting for a commercial to finish so he could resume working on his masterpiece.
Nothing could deter Halladay in his postseason debut. Not the long television breaks. Not the rain in the early innings. Not the best-hitting team in the NL.
Halladay threw the second no-hitter in postseason history, leading the Philadelphia Phillies over the Cincinnati Reds 4-0 in Game 1 of the NL division series on Wednesday.
“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.”
Don Larsen is the only other pitcher to throw a postseason no-hitter. He tossed a perfect game for the New York Yankees in the 1956 World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers. The 54th anniversary of Larsen’s gem is this Friday.
Halladay took the Year of the Pitcher into October. 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. He threw 104 pitches, 79 for strikes.
“It’s no fun out there,” Reds slugger Joey Votto said. “It’s like trying to hit nothing. He’s an ace among aces.”
Halladay spent 12 seasons with Toronto, far from the postseason. A trade last December brought him to the defending two-time NL champions, and gave him this chance.
“It’s been a great year, a fun year, we obviously have a ways to go,” Halladay said.
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.
Ramon Hernandez popped out to second baseman Chase Utley for the first out. Pinch-hitter Miguel Cairo then fouled out to third baseman Wilson Valdez.
Halladay retired Brandon Phillips on a tapper in front of the plate to end it. Catcher Carlos Ruiz pounced on the ball, getting down on his knee as the ball rolled near Phillips’ bat, and made a strong throw for the final out.
“If I was catching, I probably would’ve picked up the ball and bat and threw them both,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.
Halladay pumped his fist into his glove as Ruiz rushed to the mound. Just like catcher Yogi Berra did with Larsen, Ruiz started to jump into Halladay’s arms. Unlike Berra, the 5-foot-8 Ruiz didn’t wrap up his pitcher in a bear hug.
Shortstop Jimmy Rollins made the toughest play to preserve the no-hitter, going deep in the hole and making a strong throw to retire 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 year as pitchers dominated. Five no-hit bids were broken up in the ninth inning, too.
Halladay became the fifth pitcher to throw two no-hitters in the same year. He joined Nolan Ryan (1973), Virgil Trucks (1952), Allie Reynolds (1951) and Johnny Vander Meer (1938).
The last time a pitcher came close to a no-hitter in the postseason was quite a while ago. Boston’s Jim Lonborg went 7 2-3 innings against St. Louis in the 1967 World Series before Julian Javier broke up it with a double, according to STATS LLC.
Game 2 is Friday at Philadelphia.
The Reds led the NL 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.
The 33-year-old 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 get-go in Game 1.
A determined, intense Halladay got ahead of hitters and worked quickly. He threw first-pitch strikes to 17 of the first 18 batters.
“It’s tough to beat probably the best pitcher in baseball in a game at his home park,” Bruce said.
Halladay even did it 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 on the mound, 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 1 2-3 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 to complete a trade. Halladay probably would’ve received the richest contract ever for a pitcher if he held off, but he wanted to play in Philadelphia.
The Phillies gave Halladay all the runs he would need in the first.
Shane Victorino sliced a one-out double down the left-field line. He stole third and scored on Utley’s sacrifice fly to right. A fired-up Victorino slid headfirst barely ahead of Bruce’s strong one-hop throw, got up and patted plate umpire John Hirschbeck on the behind on his way to the dugout.
Ruiz drew a two-out walk in the second and Valdez bounced an infield single that shortstop Orlando Cabrera fielded on the second-base side of the infield. Halladay then hit a hard liner to left that fell in ahead of Jonny Gomes’ sliding attempt. Ruiz scored to make it 2-0. After Rollins walked to load the bases, Victorino chased Volquez with a two-run single.
With the crowd waving their white-and-red “Fightin’ Phils” rally towels, Victorino fouled off consecutive 3-2 pitches before lining a hit to left-center for a 4-0 lead.