PHILADELPHIA -- So what was it like, to be at the park on a drizzly October night a guy pitched his way into the pantheon? The fans at Citizens Bank Park waved their little white rally towels frantically. They stood and screamed -- pure, primal, throat-scratching screaming -- on pitch after pitch and after pitch. (And there were only 104 of them for the game.) The fans dressed in operating gowns, waiting for
And all the while, for the man at the center of all this pandemonium, time seemed to be slowing down. The great -- yes, great -- right-hander waited his whole major league career, which began in 1998, for the chance to pitch in a postseason game. A lesser man would have been overeager. Harry Leroy Halladay III was his same old self. In total control.
In the worst of times, and Roy Halladay doesn't have many of those, the man is unhurried. In the best of times -- like when he pitched his perfect game on the road against the Florida Marlins on May 29 -- there's something almost laconic about him. You've seen that in other confident, capable people, haven't you? Even though he works quickly on the mound, it's so efficient. In interviews, even right after a game, every word is measured. He signs autographs in neat, careful penmanship. Wednesday night, when he shook off his catcher,
The walk to the dugout between innings became slower and slower and slower. Slow in the sixth. Slower yet in the seventh. Even slower in the eighth. He made eye contact with nobody. He just stared into that place where batters go to die.
The Cincinnati Reds couldn't hit him last night. Nothing. No runs, no hits, no anythings. A no-hitter, a super-clean, thrill-ride no-hitter. Twenty-eight up, 27 down. In the first game of the National League division series, the Phillies won, 4-0. The only thing that prevented it from being a perfect game was a two-out, six-pitch walk in the fifth issued to right fielder
The heart-attack moment for the 46,000 in the house, who are getting accustomed to spectacular baseball but not remotely blasé about it, was the very last batter of the night,
The third pitch of the at-bat. Unhittable curveball. But Phillips, with exemplary bat control, was able to nick it. It bounced once in front of the plate, on the soft, damp grass. Ruiz didn't seem to know exactly where it was. It bounced again and then again. The speedy infielder started flying down the first-base line. He tossed his bat into fair territory and the ball rolled right up against it. The crowd stopped. Stopped screaming. Stopped breathing. Time stopped. Ruiz did not.
Ruiz fell to his knees and slid into the ball. He made a throw from his pads to
The TBS microphone went in front of Halladay's mouth. The man had just made history. He said, "You try to chip in, be part of it." TRY TO CHIP IN? BE PART OF IT? Yes, try to chip in, be part of it. He doesn't use all caps, exclamation marks, hype. He uses a half-dozen pitches, this time on eight days' rest.
He talked to the writers wearing a Phillies hoodie, his great right hand on his lap where nobody could see it. What was your game plan, brother?
"Try and win," the man said.