Halladay Tosses Second No-Hitter in Playoff History

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Halladay Tosses Second No-Hitter in Playoff History

Originally published October 7, 2010

Can you pitch the game of your life twice in the same season?

Oh, yes, you can.

Just ask Roy Halladay. He did it Wednesday night.

Just ask Jimmy Rollins. He witnessed it.

“It was just great,” Rollins said. “Simple and classy. That was awesome.”

Rollins has seen some spectacular Phillies postseason moments the last two years. Heck, he’s authored some of them. Wednesday night he lived through another one as Halladay, in a performance seemingly plucked from the pages of a fairy tale, took the mound for his first postseason game ever and pitched a no-hitter to lead the Phillies to a 4-0 win over the Cincinnati Reds in Game 1 of the National League Division Series.

Think about all of this for a second. Halladay came to Philadelphia because he believed it was the place where he could experience postseason play after a career full of empty Octobers in Toronto. In his first playoff start, on the night he had long dreamed of, he did something that had only been done once before in more than a century of postseason play. Before Halladay’s 104-pitch gem against the Reds, Don Larsen had been the only other pitcher to toss a no-hitter in postseason play when he delivered a perfect game for the New York Yankees in the 1956 World Series.

Halladay was not quite perfect. He walked one batter, Jay Bruce, on a 3-2 pitch in the fifth inning. But Halladay knows what perfection feels like. His perfect game on May 29 at Florida was the season’s signature moment.

Before all this happened, of course.

“It’s a little bit surreal to know some of that stuff,” said Halladay, referring to the historical aspect of his accomplishment. “This was one of those special things that you’ll always remember.”

Every Phillies fan will remember it, the 46,411 who packed Citizens Bank Park, and the countless others who watched it at home on television.

They will remember every one of Halladay’s eight strikeouts, the two excellent defensive plays that Rollins made at shortstop, and the nice catch that Jayson Werth made on the Reds’ only hard-hit ball in rightfield.

They will remember how Halladay owned Cincinnati hitters, how he attacked them with the intensity of a pit bull, how he threw first-pitch strikes to 25 of 28 batters, a ratio that allowed him to control the Reds’at-bats and get their hitters to chase his darting pitches, even when they were purposely thrown wide of the strike zone.

They will even remember how Halladay had an RBI single in the second inning, before anyone started thinking no-hitter.

There were more memorable vignettes, of course.

The final out will always remain indelible. Reds leadoff man Brandon Phillips hit a tapper out in front of home plate. As the ball skittered on the grass, it struck Phillips’ bat. Catcher Carlos Ruiz looked like a frantic Easter egg hunter as he reached around the bat, grasped the ball and, from his knees, threw around the base runner to first baseman Ryan Howard to end the game.

“It looked like Carlos was playing Twister,” Howard said afterward. “He made a great throw from his knees.”

When the out was registered, Ruiz hopped into Halladay’s arms, a freeze-frame moment reminiscent of Yogi Berra leaping into Larsen’s arms in 1956.

Within seconds, Halladay and Ruiz were engulfed by jubilant teammates. Howard said he wasn’t sure if it was cool to celebrate a Game 1 win in a playoff series, but, what the heck, this was special.

“Pretty solid pickup, I’d say,” Howard deadpanned, referring to Halladay’s acquisition in December.

“That’s what I call good managing,” Phils skipper Charlie Manuel joked.

Phillies fans were thrilled when the team acquired Halladay. They weren’t all that happy when 2009 postseason hero Cliff Lee was traded away in an accompanying deal.

As Phillies players mobbed Halladay at the last out Wednesday night, Phillies officials, according to front-office man Dallas Green, “went crazy” up in the team’s executive box.

“We forgot about Cliff Lee,” said Green, who, as a young Yankees farmhand, was at Yankee Stadium as a spectator the day Larsen threw his perfecto.

The Phillies scored four runs in the first two innings, running Cincinnati starter Edinson Volquez from the game. After Halladay contributed to the Phils’ three-run rally in the second, he took the mound in the top of third and iced the Reds on nine pitches, eight of which were strikes. Halladay threw his entire arsenal at the NL’s best hitting team. He featured a power sinker, a devastating cutter, a dazzling changeup and a curveball that Reds hitters, often behind in the count, couldn’t lay off.

So how did Halladay’s stuff compare to the perfect game in Miami?

“Better,” pitching coach Rich Dubee said. “Way better. Better movement. Better command.”

Halladay credited Ruiz for calling a heads-up game. He only shook off Ruiz once.

“I know I always go back to it, but Ruiz has done a great job all year recognizing what’s working, what’s effective, and calling it,” Halladay said. “We were aggressive and made good pitches.”

The Reds couldn’t argue that.

“In a situation like that, you’re almost helpless because he was dealing,” Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker said. “Good pitching will beat good hitting and that was great pitching tonight.”

Joey Votto, the Reds’ MVP candidate, concurred.

“I hate to use hyperbole, but he’s an ace among aces,” Votto said.

Lost in all the excitement created by Halladay’s masterpiece was the even more important fact that the Phils are up one game to none in a short, best-of-five playoff series. They are two wins away from returning to the NL Championship Series for the third time in as many years.

“The best part of this is the playoffs take priority and it’s pretty neat for me to go out and win a game like that knowing there’s more to come for us and more to accomplish,” Halladay said. “So that makes it a lot of fun.”

Things might not be fun for the Reds. They face Roy Oswalt in Game 2 on Friday. He’s only 23-3 in his career against Cincinnati.

Phillies free-agent target: Gerrit Cole

Phillies free-agent target: Gerrit Cole

Leading up to baseball’s winter meetings, we will take a daily look at some of the game’s top free agents and how they could potentially impact the Phillies.

We start with pitcher Gerrit Cole, who is bound to sign a record-setting contract.

The vitals

The powerful 29-year-old right-hander and former No. 1 overall draft pick (by Pittsburgh in 2011) is the unquestioned prize of this winter’s free-agent class. He has built an impressive career resume, especially recently. He is 35-10 with 2.68 ERA and 13.1 strikeouts per nine innings in 65 starts over the last two seasons for the Houston Astros. He is durable and postseason tested. He went 20-5 with an American League-best 2.50 ERA in 33 starts in 2019. He had an 0.895 WHIP and led the majors with 326 strikeouts. For the season, his fastball averaged 97.1 mph, according to Statcast. Only the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard chucked it harder at 98.1 mph. 

Why he fits

Because he’s one of the best pitchers in the game and would immediately make the Phillies better as they try to live up to general manager Matt Klentak’s goal of winning now. Cole would give the Phils an ace who could stand up to Max Scherzer in Washington, Jacob deGrom in New York and the lineup in Atlanta. As an unquestioned No. 1, he’d take pressure off Aaron Nola, who felt some down the stretch in 2019.

Why he doesn’t fit

“If this were major-league Christmas, we would be looking at 30 stockings that clearly wanted a lump of Cole,” agent Scott Boras said of his client as the market opened last week.

The competition for Cole will be intense as teams from the game’s largest markets bid for his services. Cole is from Southern California and word is the Los Angeles Angels are ready to back up the truck for him. The mega-rich New York Yankees also want him. That sets up a nirvana-like situation for Boras, who can play the two markets off each other. The Phillies will be in on Cole — they’ve already touched base with Boras — and they cannot be counted out because they have money and an owner willing to spend. However, given what it might take to sign Cole, the Phillies might be better off spreading their money around and trying to fill multiple holes in the rotation and lineup.

The price tag

Cole is right in the middle of his prime years. There has been speculation that he could fetch $300 million in a long-term deal. He almost surely will eclipse David Price’s $217 million deal with Boston, a record for a pitcher, and could top Justin Verlander’s annual salary of $33 million, also a record for a pitcher. In other words, he’ll be expensive.

Scout’s take

“It took a while, but it looks like he found out how good his stuff is and his success has given him great confidence. He really knows how to utilize that great fastball high in the strike zone.”

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Braves' signing of Will Smith has ripple effect on NL East and free agency

Braves' signing of Will Smith has ripple effect on NL East and free agency

Two weeks into free agency, the Braves have been more active than any team. Their biggest move was Thursday's signing of left-hander Will Smith, the top reliever on the market.

Prior to that, Atlanta brought back three of its own would-be-free-agents in right fielder Nick Markakis, catcher Tyler Flowers and reliever Darren O'Day.

The Smith signing is definitely the highest impact move of the bunch and makes the Braves a lot better. His deal is for a reported $40 million over three years. He is coming off his first All-Star appearance and back-to-back stellar years. He was 6-0 with 34 saves and a 2.76 ERA for the Giants in 2019, he struck out 96 in 65⅓ innings and he held lefties to a .157/.167/.229 batting line. Read that again ... 157/.167/.229!

Bryce Harper will face Smith many times over the next three years. The teams meet 19 times per season and you'd figure Smith will face Harper in a high-leverage situation whenever the game is late and close. Harper is 0 for 8 with five strikeouts lifetime against Smith. Smith will also factor into plenty of matchups with Juan Soto.

The Braves tried various closing formulas in 2018. They went through Arodys Vizcaino, A.J. Minter, Luke Jackson, Shane Greene and Melancon. For most of the season, the ninth-inning was a weakness, yet the Braves still won 97 games. 

Melancon will return in 2020 and could still close, but Smith is another very good option if he falters. It would probably make more sense for the Braves to try to use Melancon as the ninth-inning guy to free up Smith for high-leverage spots against lefties in the eighth or even seventh inning.

Why did Smith sign so quickly? For a couple reasons. First, $40 million over three years is a sweet contract for a reliever. He may not have beaten this deal even by waiting. But his representatives also effectively leveraged Thursday's qualifying offer deadline against teams interested in Smith. There was at least a threat that Smith could accept the Giants' one-year, $17.8 million qualifying offer if a better alternative was not presented by Nov. 14. That created more urgency on the Braves' part.

Removing Smith's name from the free-agent relief market further depletes an already light market. The top two potential free-agent relievers were set to be Smith and Aroldis Chapman, but Smith is a Brave in mid-November and Chapman returned to the Yankees on a new deal.

With Smith off the board, the top free-agent reliever might be longtime lefty starter Drew Pomeranz. In 25 appearances with the Brewers after a midseason trade, Pomeranz had a 2.39 ERA and 0.91 WHIP with 45 strikeouts in 26⅓ innings. He's generated a ton of buzz this winter and should also find a lucrative multi-year contract.

Chris Martin, Sergio Romo, Will Harris, Daniel Hudson and Dellin Betances are the best free-agent bullpen arms left. There are also trade candidates like Ken Giles, Raisel Iglesias and maybe Ian Kennedy if the Royals eat most of his remaining $22.5 million.

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