Nicknamed for a famous Western gunfighter, Philadelphia Phillies ace Roy “Doc” Halladay lived up to it Wednesday night as he pitched a one-sided shootout in his first ever playoff start.
When the dust settled, Halladay had thrown the second no-hitter in postseason history, leading his team to a 4-0 victory over the Cincinnati Reds in Game 1 of the NL division series.
Day One saw another dazzling pitching performance, in the AL division, as Cliff Lee of the Texas Rangers burned the Tampa Bay Rays with 10 strikeouts in a 5-1 win.
“It’s surreal, it really is,” Halladay said. “I just wanted to pitch here, to pitch in the postseason. To go out and have a game like that, it’s a dream come true.”
Halladay dominated the best hitting team in the National League this season with a sharp fastball and a devastating slow curve. The All-Star right-hander struck out eight and allowed just a lone runner.
Reds’ rightfielder Jay Bruce was the only one of his teammates to reach first base, on a walk in the fifth inning.
“We had nothing going all night. We couldn’t get anything going, couldn’t get any rhythm going,” Bruce said. “He beat us, singlehandedly beat us.”
It sure looked like it. Halladay tossed a perfect game in May, and Wednesday’s performance made him the fifth pitcher in major league history to throw two no-hitters in one season.
After the May game in Florida, he bought about 60 Swiss watches for his teammates, the bat boy and others in the organization for their part — no matter how small — in what he did. And last night, Halladay repeatedly gave credit to catcher Carlos Ruiz for calling the right pitches.
“You know, changeup has been a little bit hit-and-miss for me the last few times out, and it was good today,” Halladay said. “He recognized that early, continued to call it and did it in, you know, good situations.”
Thanks also should have gone to Ruiz for the game’s final play. After the hitter swung a dribbler out in front of the plate, Ruiz deftly picked up the ball and from his knees threw around the hitter, who was sprinting to first base, to make the out.
The image of Ruiz hugging Halladay wasn’t quite the iconic scene of 54 years ago, when New York Yankees catcher Yogi Berra jumped into the arms of pitcher Don Larsen after Larsen completed his famous perfect game in the 1956 World Series against Brooklyn.
Larsen and Halladay now are joined by greatness — the only two men to throw post-season no hitters. The 54th anniversary of Larsen’s gem is this Friday.
Texas 5, Tampa Bay 1
Earlier Wednesday, Lee, pitching on the road, matched a postseason best with 10 strikeouts while allowing five hits — one after the second inning. During one dominating stretch, he retired 16 of 17 batters before giving up Ben Zobrist’s homer in the seventh.
Lee improved to 5-0 in six career postseason starts. He went 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA in five starts for the Phillies in 2009, including 2-0 with a 2.81 ERA against the New York Yankees in the World Series.
The Rangers ace lost to the Rays three times during the regular season. However, the AL East champions were no match for the left-hander this time. The Rangers stopped a nine-game postseason losing streak that began in 1996.
New York 6, Minnesota 4
The New York Yankees simply own the Minnesota Twins in playoffs.
Mark Teixeira hit a tiebreaking, two-run homer in the seventh inning, and the Yankees rallied to a 6-4 victory Wednesday night in Game 1 of the AL division series, the Twins’ 10th straight postseason loss.
“Game-winning homers,” Teixeira said with a wide smile on his face, “there’s nothing better.”
The Twins now have dropped seven straight postseason games to the Yanks.
Material from The Associated Press was used in this report Copyright 2010 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Copyright 2010 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.