He cracked a smile. Finally, he cracked a smile. Roy “Doc” Halladay had stomped through the Phillies’ dugout most of Saturday night as he always does, intense and focused like a masked executioner about to lop off someone’s head. Only this time, no one was coming even remotely close to him. The Phillies, even manager Charlie Manuel, stayed away, preferring to look in any direction other than where Halladay was. Painting the perfect picture can do that.
Finishing the Sistine Chapel can soften it. It did Saturday night, as Halladay faced 27 Florida Marlins and knocked them down in a row. He became the second Phillies pitcher to ever throw a perfect game–joining Jim Bunting’s 1964 Father Day special. Halladay’s perfect piece is the 20th in Major League history. On a larger scale, Halladay’s perfecto also adds some history to this 2010 season, becoming the first time since 1880 (yes, you read that correctly, over a century ago) that there were two perfect games thrown in a big league season (joining Oakland’s Dallas Braden, who threw his perfect game 20 days before Halladay’s).
The closest Halladay had to a no-hitter before Saturday night came in just his second big league start, when he threw 8 2/3 before he had it broken up.
This time, there was no stopping him.
If there was someone deserving of throwing a perfect game it is Halladay. Go down the list of some of the pitchers in Major League history who have thrown no-hitters and they don’t even compare to Halladay, starting with Joe Cowley, and some on that list even include Phillies like Tommy Greene, who both ironically each walked seven in their non-nos.
You had the sense that one day Halladay would do something special for the Phillies, whether it would be winning Game 7 of the World Series or something else extraordinary. And it’s no wonder he gave everyone else credit for what he did, starting with his catcher, Carlos “Chooch” Ruiz. Halladay didn’t forget the fine defense behind him from Chase Utley and Juan Castro. Which is typical Halladay, a true professional on and off the field.
He masterfully worked the corners of the plate. After the first two innings, Halladay had no problems. He kept his pitches down in the strike zone, and everything that had to go right for him did go right.
Though, you have to admit, Halladay made us all squirm as each Marlin batter came up and each one he sat down. We were all throwing each pitch with Halladay.
“It’s hard to explain, there’s days when things just kinda of click and things happen,” Halladay said afterward. “You know it’s something you obviously don’t ever go out and try to do. But, you know it’s a great feeling. It’s a lot better than the eight, and two-thirds. You know I was really trying to go one pitch at a time. I know it’s a cliché, but when I’m effective, that’s what I’m doing is pitch-to-pitch, and try to execute pitches. I think once I got two outs in that ninth inning, I felt like I got a chance to make some pitches and get it.”
Halladay was very cool throughout the whole game, carrying his Mr. Spock-like emotion-less demeanor from pitch-to-pitch, inning-to-inning–until the very end. But the Phillies’ fans scattered throughout the park knew what was going on–as did the players around Halladay.
Each time Ruiz threw up his glove, Halladay hit it. He could do no wrong.
“I can’t say enough about the job Ruiz did tonight, I felt he was calling a great game up till the fourth or fifth inning and at that point, I felt like it was let him take over and go with him,” Halladay said. “He did a great job, it was kind of like a no-brainer for me, just see the glove and hit it. You never really think about throwing a no-hitter until the eighth or ninth. Until you get there, you know you’re close, but still a long way from it. Once I got two outs in that ninth inning, I felt like I got a chance to make some pitches and get it. I felt like see glove, hit glove. The more simple you can make it, the easier it is. You know, if you take a step off the mound and start thinking about it, you make things worse. Just get on the rubber and try to make pitches.”
And then he smiled again.
Forty-three percent of his 115 pitches were sinkers, resulting in four of his 11 strikeouts . He had unbelievable command of five pitches, toying with the Marlins lineup like he was dangling a yo-yo out there. Of the 11 Marlins Halladay struck out, he caught six of them looking at called third strikes.
Credit goes to the Florida Marlins organization, having their ground crew dig up the rubber and present it to Halladay.
“It was more a sense of relief at the end than excitement,” Halladay said of getting the final out. “It’s a good thing and it’s hard to explain. I say 2:30, three o’clock, the guys started staying away from me.”
Then Halladay laughed.
The ball, Halladay said, was hidden. His rare show of joy wasn’t. This gem won’t ever be hidden, either, probably relived a number of times before the end of this season and for a few years to come.