In the absence of present-day baseball, Pitcher List has been thinking of everything we can to give you the game we all love. For one thing, the We Love Baseball gang is putting together a great series of articles called “Why I Love…” that’s primed to reach every facet of the game. For another — and maybe you’ve caught this already — we’ve put together the PL+ Classic Game of the Day for our community members. Hosted through our Discord, staff members are taking the lead on commentating on games ingrained in our memories, for better or worse, as the community hangs out together to relive the moment.
You can keep track of what games will happen on which days by following us on Twitter. Last night we watched Len Barker’s perfect game from 1981 with Mat Kovach hosting. The night before, we came together to enjoy Game One of the 2010 NLDS where the Reds played the Phillies. Roy Halladay took the mound that night and made history by pitching only the second no-hitter in playoff history.
Halladay was a stone-cold killer all night. He didn’t care that it was his first playoff game after more than a decade in the majors. He didn’t care that the Reds were the fifth-best offense in baseball that year, or that a baby-faced Joey Votto slashed .328/.428/.600 on his way to his an MVP award. Halladay cruised through 250 innings that year. He threw a complete game in his final start of the regular season, just to cap things off. He was eventually the unanimous NL Cy Young winner. He was on a mission.
The Reds came out swinging early in counts. Halladay was one of the best in baseball at getting to two-strike counts and only Roy Oswalt and Cliff Lee had gotten more outs in such situations that year. Brandon Phillips hit a weak dribbler to short on the first pitch of the game. Jimmy Rollins put him away. Late-career Orlando Cabrera gave Halladay a decent battle, running the count full but ultimately flying out to center. Joey Votto hit a weak liner to Chase Utley, and the inning was over. It was the longest inning Halladay had all night.
Former Phillie Scott Rolen led off the second. He took a cutter inside for a called strike. He swung at a cutter away and fouled it off. He took a two-seamer inside for a ball, and then whiffed on a curveball that sank below the zone. Jonny Gomes grounded out to third, Jay Bruce rolled one over to second. Six up, six down.
The Phillies chased Reds started Edinson Volquez before he could get out of his half of the second by making him throw over 40 pitches in that inning alone. It was one moment of many in the game that highlighted the stark difference between 2010 baseball and today’s baseball. It’s hard to imagine a starter struggling to locate, giving up walks, and ultimately a couple runs, and still being allowed to try to prove that he could get it done.
Once the third came around, Halladay coaxed two outs through weak contact and survived a Travis Wood liner right at Jayson Werth in right field. Then the Phillies came up and tacked on couple more runs thanks to Shane Victorino and, delightfully, Halladay himself. By the end of the inning, the Phillies had sunk the Reds’ win probability below 15%.
By all means, Halladay was making it look easy, and then he really got into a groove. He started the fourth by whiffing Phillips on a curveball and Cabrera on a splitter, both away and breaking off the plate. Votto was confused into swatting a grounder to short. The only hiccup came in the fifth after starting off with another two strikeouts, this time both looking. He walked Jay Bruce, got Drew Stubbs to ground out to short, and walked off.
Halladay managed another three Ks before the ninth. Then he got catcher Ramon Hernandez to pop out. Miguel Cairo came in to pitch hit, and it was an interesting twist to the only post-season no-hitter through eight innings since Don Larsen’s in 1956. Cairo was 4-for-11 against Halladay to that point in his career. Batter vs. pitcher stats don’t really mean anything, but at that point, anything that had some good juju on it was worth a try for Cincinnati.
He popped out to Wilson Valdez in foul territory. And there we were: the moment of truth.
Brandon Phillips came to the plate to try to break it all up — to try to prevent history.
Two-seamer painted on the outside edge for a called strike one.
Cutter off the plate away with a hapless swing and miss for strike two.
Curveball off the plate. A swinging bunt. A dribbler barely three feet from home. Carlos Ruiz goes to his knees, throws out Phillips, and the game was over. Only the second no-hitter in baseball post-season history.
I was on the campus of Rutgers-Camden that night, where I commuted to college. I had a night class that sounded like a lot of fun in the written course description that ended up being kind of a dud. I was eating my dinner in the cafeteria. After I finished my chicken tenders and fries with honey mustard, and probably some terrible concoction of Brisk iced tea, lemonade, and Sprite, I went to catch the start of the game in the all-purpose room attached to the cafeteria before class. Then Halladay started doing his thing. They were handing out foam fingers. There was a no-hitter in progress! I couldn’t possibly get up.
The foam finger has stayed in the trunk of every car I’ve had since college. I went to class late. I embraced the ear-to-ear smile on my face.
Roy Halladay seemed to be a machine. The mechanics were flawless. The pitches moved like a video game. On the mound, his face was devoid of emotion. But he was always conscious of how he was cutting up the opposition. In any of his complete seasons as a starter, he threw at least 220 innings. He didn’t peak until he was 34. The work ethic was unparalleled, the results were unrivaled. He was the stuff of legend. On October 6, 2010, he made sure the whole world knew.
Feature image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)