PHILADELPHIA -- There was a "shock factor'' in being no-hit, especially in the postseason, Reds outfielder Jay Bruce admitted after Phillies mega-star Roy Halladay made the National League's most productive lineup throughout the regular season look like a bunch of pikers in a 4-0 victory in Game 1 of the NLDS.
It was a performance that carries the potential to devastate even an excellent team such as Cincinnati. It's only one game, a few Reds people mouthed afterward. But oh what a game it was. (RECAP | BOX SCORE)
Some others Reds people appeared to be stunned into silence by the second postseason no-hitter in baseball history and the first since Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series. That was the shock part. In the moments after the game, a few of the Cincinnati folks could think of nothing to say about a performance that was a total zero from their standpoint, except for a lone walk by Bruce in the fifth inning.
Not that it was the Reds' fault. It was all on Halladay, the best pitcher in baseball who threw a no-hitter in his first postseason performance, an outing that was one of the best games you could ever see but may not even have been his best outing of the year considering he threw a perfect game against the Marlins back on May 29. It was surely the best-timed, though, as it got the postseason favorite off to a rousing October start and lefty Cincy with its mouths wide open.
Despite the shock factor, if you watched Halladay throw from beginning to end Wednesday night, in one of the most dominating games anyone's ever going to see, it wasn't all that surprising he no-hit the Reds. The Reds, the team that led the National League in runs, only once came even remotely close to recording a hit against Halladay. That was on a line drive by relief pitcher Travis Wood that hung up for right fielder Jayson Werth to make one of his patented sliding catches.
Halladay missed perfection only by walking Bruce on a 3-and-2 pitch. But such utter domination won't soon be duplicated. The Reds looked like the Deads from the start. They were overmatched. A couple of them actually appeared like they were swinging with blindfolds on. Others looked like Little Leaguers facing the best pitcher on the planet. But they are not a bunch of kids, they are themselves an intimidating lineup. But they had no chance. And even they had to know it.
With the exception of Orlando Cabrera, who was the only one to complain about home-plate umpire John Hirschbeck's strike zone, the Reds fully understood that they were watching a magician on the mound. Halladay was throwing his fastball 93 to 94 mph, a very good but not overwhelming velocity. Yet, he was untouchable.
"He sinks it, he cuts it. He's got the best stuff in the game,'' Bruce said.
"We knew Halladay's got four pitches. And when he's throwing four pitches for strikes on both sides of the plate, that turns into eight pitches. And that's near to impossible,'' the Reds' Jonny Gomes said.
Hirschbeck is known as a very good pitchers' umpire. Cabrera has earned his reputation as a postseason sparkplug but he came off as something of a sore loser since no one else said they saw it that way. No other Red. Nor certainly a Phillie. If Hallday was throwing smoke, Cabrera was blowing smoke.
Cabrera did throw a bit of praise Hirschbeck's way ("one of the best umpires in the game") and Halladay's, as well. "He was basically getting every pitch ... a guy like Halladay is going to feed off of that,'' Cabrera said. Cabrera claimed that the big zone was causing the Reds to feel they had to swing at every pitch.
They did swing a lot. But they rarely connected, at least not squarely.
Nobody else was worked up about the calls. And no one should have been. The Reds were simply not up to the task. Maybe no one could have been.
"He's a great pitcher, and he beat us,'' Brandon Phillips said. "Halladay was Halladay. He did his job. We didn't do ours.''
Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz said he could sense something special in the bullpen warm-up. Everyone in attendance caught on about halfway through the game, if not sooner than that. The Reds appeared to have little chance to hit the ball hard. Wood was the only one to hit the ball well, but his liner was caught fairly easily by the speedy, sliding Werth to end the third inning. That seemed like about the last threat.
"He was pounding the corners,'' Bruce said. "Everything moves. And if he does (look like he's making) a mistake, it's coming back over. He didn't make any mistakes today.''
If anyone wants to claim there was one, the 3-and-2 pitch to Bruce was clearly low, and Bruce said it wasn't tough to decide to take it. That was the lone blemish on a Halladay ledger that included 104 pitches, 79 strikes, 25 balls, eight strikeouts and a whole mess of weakly-hit grounders and popups.
Halladay was so overwhelmingly good the no-hitter almost lacked a bit of drama. There never seemed to be a threat who walked up to the plate for Cincinnati. Everyone who held a bat looked like a victim instead.
The ninth inning was like the others. Ramon Hernandez popped out. Miguel Cairo popped out. And Phillips grounded out, according to the stat sheet. In reality, he hit a dribbler that was fielded by the catcher Ruiz no far from the plate.
"You've got to give the guy credit, he beat us,'' Bruce said. "Every single inning, every single pitch, he beat us.''