The calendar lies. Wednesday was not the sixth of October. It was the first of Doc-Tober. It will always be the first of Doc-Tober, not only in Roy Halladay's new baseball home or in his former home of Toronto but throughout baseball and for all time.
What the pitcher known as 'Doc' did in pitching a no-hitter for the Philadelphia Phillies against the Cincinnati Reds in the first game of the National League Division Series was more than simply burnish credentials that already pointed in direction of Cooperstown and the Baseball Hall of Fame. It was more than simply becoming the first pitcher since Nolan Ryan in 1973 to have two no-hitters in the same season. Halladay threw a perfect game on May 29 against the Florida Marlins.
Since 1956, Don Larsen's perfect game for the New York Yankees has just kind of lingered in the background of each successive playoff game.
If Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak is the record no one ever expects to be broken in their lifetime and the hitting Triple Crown a bridge too far for even accomplished sluggers like Albert Pujols, Larsen's perfect game has stood in many ways as the ultimate one-off, standing up decade after decade through raised and lowered pitching mounds, expansion, labour strife, cocaine scandals, juiced balls and juiced players. For all the brilliant pitching that baseball's postseasons have produced, nobody was able to throw a no-hitter let alone a perfect game. It's the postseason's Halley's Comet.
Not any more. Not with more starts in order for Halladay. "It's pretty neat for me to win a game like that and know there's more for us to come and more to accomplish," said Halladay.
That almost sounds like a warning.
Somebody asked Reds manager Dusty Baker afterward if he dreamed he'd see somebody throw a no-hitter at his team in the playoffs and he said that no, no he didn't. "I would have thought I was having a nightmare," he said, "and I don't like to have nightmares."
Halladay is the ultimate creature of habit. When he was with the Blue Jays - and let's remember, Halladay came within one out of a no-hitter in his second career start only to have the Detroit Tigers' Bobby Higginson break it up - he was something of an insular clubhouse presence and that has carried over to the Phillies, although on a veteran club whose core group has been to the World Series twice, winning once, Halladay's nature wears differently than it did in Toronto, where the team never had postseason success during his tenure.
And if anything was going to take Halladay out of his comfort zone, you'd have to have thought it would be pitching in the playoffs. True, this is why he orchestrated his trade from the Blue Jays to the Phillies last winter - Halladay never reached the postseason with Toronto and with his pitcher's biological clock ticking the Phillies composition (they are a shrewdly fashioned team built for an extended run of success) was enticing. But Wednesday, Halladay was pitching after eight days rest - an unusually long time between starts.
Yet there was not even a hint of a flaw. Halladay had nine 0-2 counts with one out in the eighth inning and his fastball settled in nicely at 94 miles an hour, 15 miles an hour more than his changeup. Only a couple of balls were hit hard and what swings the Reds managed were more often than not defensive in nature. The look was familiar to anybody who followed his career with the Blue Jays: Halladay the metronome, tick this fastball now tock that changeup now tick this fastball now tock this curveball. Strikeout, thanks for coming, who's up next?
This was going to be a game that tugged at the heart-strings of Blue Jays fans, because Halladay represents the best of an organization that isn't what it used to be and also because deep down we all feel he should have been in a Blue Jays uniform for his first postseason start. But with each pitch and each shake of each Reds batter's head, the wistfulness gave way and was replaced by just one thought: He was going to do it. Roy Halladay was going to pitch a no-hitter. Doc-Tober has arrived.
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