And then pitched the game of a lifetime.
Halladay threw a no-hitter Wednesday in Game 1 of the National League Division Series against Cincinnati at Citizens Bank Park. Philadelphia won, 4-0, and Halladay limited the Reds to one baserunner, Jay Bruce, who walked on a 3-2 pitch with two outs in the fifth inning.
Halladay, who threw a perfect game May 29 in Florida, became just the second pitcher in baseball history to throw a no-hitter in the postseason. Halladay is just the fifth pitcher to throw two no-hitters in the same season, but the first to throw one in his first postseason start.
Halladay is also the first pitcher to throw a no-hitter and a perfect game in the same season, and the first starting pitcher in postseason history to get more hits than he allowed -- he hit an RBI single in the second inning.
"I think once it ends, it's a little bit surreal," Halladay said.
Oh, definitely. But it got tense at the end. As fans roared and waved white rally towels in anticipation of history with two outs in the ninth inning, Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips hit a 0-2 curveball in front of the plate. Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz ripped off his mask and pursued, but the bat landed in fair territory and the ball rolled up the length of the bat. Ruiz dropped to his knees, picked up the ball and made a perfect throw to Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard to beat Phillips to the bag.
"I was panicking," Ruiz said.
The night still felt surreal hours later with the ballpark empty, the lights turned low and the tarp pulled over the infield. Halladay had watched postseasons past from his home in Florida. He had enjoyed a marvelous career, but the Blue Jays never beat the Yankees, Red Sox or Rays to make the playoffs.
He waived his no-trade contract in December to come to Philadelphia because he felt the Phillies could get him a World Series ring.
He dreamed about this moment.
But he never could have dreamed of this.
"The longer you play, the more you think about having that chance and being able to be involved in it," Halladay said. "It's been fun to do here because of the atmosphere and the guys on the team. It's been really everything that I hope it would be. It's something that I've looked forward to, and obviously very glad I got the chance."
The smiles could not be wiped from the faces of his teammates in the clubhouse.
"Pretty good pickup," Howard joked.
"Was that a video game out there or what?" Domonic Brown said.
"It was just great," Jimmy Rollins said. "We'll keep it simple. Simple and classy. That was awesome."
Don Larsen threw a perfect game for the Yankees in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers. That is the only other no-hitter in postseason history.
The grainy black-and-white footage of Yogi Berra jumping into Larsen's arms is shown every October.
The HD version of Halladay's gem will be played forever, too.
"You go back and you see pitches guys were throwing 50 years ago and they might have the old fastball and maybe something else, maybe a curveball," Phillies closer Brad Lidge said, "But I think 50 years from now, people are going to look back and say, 'Roy had everything then that we have now.' I don't think you could throw a lot more stuff that he's thrown."
Double or nothing
|2010||Roy Halladay||PHI||5/29, 10/6|
|1973||Nolan Ryan||CAL||5/15, 7/15|
|1952||Virgil Trucks||DET||5/15, 8/25|
|1951||Allie Reynolds||NYY||7/12, 9/28|
|1938||J. Vander Meer||CIN||6/11, 6/15|
Halladay throws a sinker, cutter, curveball and changeup, and he threw each of them beautifully Wednesday.
How good were his pitches?
Consider for a second Halladay threw a perfect game May 29 against the Marlins at Sun Life Stadium.
He was better than his perfect game.
"Way better," Cole Hamels said. "Way better."
"I thought so," pitching coach Rich Dubee said. "I thought he had four pitches, never really lost any of those four pitches. He had four pitches throughout nine innings that he pretty much could throw at any time and to both sides of the plate. He was [like that in Florida], but he wasn't as consistent."
"He was filthy," Rollins said. "Filthy, like just completely filthy."
Halladay threw 25 first-pitch strikes to 28 batters. He had 0-2 counts 11 times.
He broke bats.
He left Reds hitters shaking their heads on the walk back to the visitors' dugout. Bruce was the only Cincinnati player to reach base.
"We never envisioned that," Reds first baseman Joey Votto said. "I don't think anything we did would have mattered. ... He just pitched so well. When you're trying to thread a needle at the plate, it's miserable. It's not fun being up there trying to hit nothing. Tonight was a nothing night. I took the one pitch I saw all night to hit because I wanted to see a strike. I hate to use hyperbole, but he's an ace among aces."
The Reds had three close calls, other than the ball Phillips hit for the final out: a line drive Reds pitcher Travis Wood smoked to right fielder Jayson Werth to end the third, a ground ball Votto hit into the hole to Rollins to end the fourth and pinch-hitter Juan Francisco hitting a hard hit ball up the middle to Rollins for the second out in the sixth.
"I wasn't anticipating him hitting the ball that way," Rollins said of Votto's ball. "He did that in Cincinnati to me. We played the shift. Me and [third baseman] Wilson [Valdez] had it right. If it's soft in front, you get it. If it gets by you, I'll be there. We started laughing at each other because he was trying to cut it off and it got past him. It worked out."
Francisco hit a ball through Halladay's legs in the sixth, but Rollins again made a nice play.
"I was just hoping it didn't hit Roy in the foot," Rollins said. "Please don't. And it hit the mound and in between all those white towels, I was able to catch it."
Halladay was in control from the moment he warmed up in the bullpen to the final pitch. Reds pitcher Edinson Volquez could not say the same. He endured a nightmarish 1 2/3 innings in his first postseason start. It started when he allowed a one-out double in the first to Shane Victorino, who stole third and scored on Chase Utley's sacrifice fly to right field to hand the Phillies a 1-0 lead.
Volquez really fell apart in the second. He walked Ruiz with one out and allowed an infield single to Valdez, who started in place of injured third baseman Placido Polanco. Halladay, who hit .141 (16-for-92) in the regular season, hit a sinking line drive to left field for a single to score Ruiz to make it 2-0.
"The at-bat of the night was by Roy Halladay," Reds manager Dusty Baker said.
Volquez walked Rollins to load the bases and Victorino singled to center field to score Valdez and Halladay to make it 4-0.
Victorino was pumped, but the best was yet to come.
"When it gets that loud, it's hard to ignore," Halladay said. "I thought especially the last three innings, it seemed like it got louder every inning. It's obviously one of the most electric atmospheres I've ever been in. It was pretty neat. It's something you obviously can't ignore, so it was a lot of fun."
After Halladay clinched the NL East title Sept. 27 in Washington, he said the season was only going to get "funner."
He was right. And Wednesday could be just the beginning.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less