Tag Archives: Cy Young Award

Remembering Doc’s No-No on Anniversary of Perfection

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Halladay and Ruiz embrace after final out of playoff no-hitter

For Phillies fans, it was not that long ago that our team was at the top of the National League, with the best starting rotation in baseball leading the way.

Three years ago on this date the Fightins were in the midst of a franchise record-setting 101-win season, and that vaunted pitching rotation included four pitchers who had been collectively nicknamed “The Four Aces” by fans and media.

Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, and arguably the Ace among Aces, Roy ‘Doc’ Halladay. It all seems to be drifting further and further into the rearview mirror now. Oswalt has been gone for a couple of years. Lee is on the Disabled List, and heavily rumored in trade discussion. Only Hamels remains, and is likely to remain, for the foreseeable future.

Halladay finally retired following the 2013 season, one that was frustrating and painful for himself and for fans of both the team and the man whom we had all come to love over the final four years of a brilliant career that spanned parts of 16 seasons, mostly with the Toronto Blue Jays. In what was his 2nd consecutive ineffective season cut short by injuries, Doc Halladay’s gifted right arm finally was spent.

But Halladay left behind a tremendous legacy in just those brief closing seasons here in Philly. There was the Cy Young Award that he won following his first season here in 2010, a 21-win campaign that included that ‘Perfect Game’ on May 29th. There was that magical 2011 season in which he was the Cy Young runner-up for the record-setting Phillies who won their 5th straight NL East title. And there was that ‘Perfect Game’ against the Florida Marlins on this night, four years ago now.

For my wife and I, there was also a special night with Doc. It came on a cool, damp night at Citizens Bank Park in the 2010 playoffs, in what was the very first playoff game of Roy Halladay’s illustrious career. It was what he had come to Philly for in the first place, a chance to win a World Series, in front of a ballpark packed to the rafters with rabid, knowledgeable fans. It was Roy Halladay’s dream.

We are ‘Sunday Plan’ season ticket holders with the Phillies, and back in 2010 our seats were in section 208, row 6. On that night of October 6th, 2010, however, because it was a playoff game, we had been given tickets in section 313. So we were seated up above left field in foul territory, a little ways beyond first base. They were good seats, as are most at the gorgeous ballpark.

The Phillies were up by 1-0 in the series, and as this game unfolded the team staked Halladay to an early lead, scoring a run in the 1st and then 3 more in the 2nd to go up 4-0. Halladay himself had knocked in the 2nd run, and then scored the 4th. It was now up to him to hold that lead, and put the Phillies up 2-0 in the series, within one of advancing to the National League Championship Series.

On this night, there was nothing to worry about. Not only would Halladay hold that lead, he would make history. Somewhere around the 6th inning my father called my cellphone from his home in Florida, asking if I knew what was happening. Did he really think that we were not all aware that Doc Halladay was tossing a no-hitter? I told him brusquely: “Yes, and don’t say anything!

A lifelong baseball fan, as my Dad well knew, I was not going to be the one to jinx our hero.

So the game continued into the 9th inning with Halladay just three outs away from Major League Baseball’s first post-season no-hitter since Don Larsen’s legendary ‘Perfect Game’ in the 1956 World Series. That Larsen perfect effort was the only no-hitter in MLB playoff history up to that point. Halladay was going for history here, and we were there to see it.

I had been attending Phillies games since Veteran’s Stadium opened back in 1971 in my old South Philly neighborhood. I had attended hundreds of games between the years at ‘The Vet’ and then at Citizens Bank Park once it opened in 2004. I had never, ever been this close to experiencing a no-hitter ‘live’ as a spectator. It was thrilling to feel the electricity in the air, and to be experiencing it with my best friend, my wife Deb.

The first two batters of that 9th and final inning went down fairly easily, both popping out. So there was just one batter between Doc, we Phils fans, and the no-hitter, the Cincinnati Reds tough and talented 2nd baseman Brandon Phillips. Doc got the first two strikes, and the fans, already on our feet the entire inning, roared for that final strike to end it.

But Halladay did not get a strikeout. Instead, Phillips barely got a piece of the 0-2 offering, and the ball dribbled out in front of home plate. You could see the entire sequence with perfect clarity from our seats, and a baseball fan who was once a catcher himself could see that this was trouble. Phillips was a speedy runner, the bat had been dropped right on top of the ball, and catcher Carlos Ruiz would need to pounce out and find a grip on that ball quickly, keep from tripping on that bat, and make a difficult-angled throw to get him.

The man known lovingly in Philly as “Chooch”, one of our remaining heroes from the 2008 World Series championship team, did just that. Ruiz pounced quickly from behind the plate, barehanded the ball, and fired just over Phillips left shoulder to 1st baseman Ryan Howard, getting Phillips by a stride. No-hitter! History!

As my wife and I hugged and high-fived both each other and everyone around us, the entire ballpark was in bedlam. Fans roared and rocked the place, and the Phillies players streamed out to mob Halladay and Ruiz, who had met in a joyful embrace in front of the mound.

I will never forget that night at the ballpark for so many reasons. It was the first playoff win that I had gotten to experience at Citizens Bank Park, only the 2nd playoff game that I had ever been to there. But mostly I will remember the gift that Doc Halladay gave to Debbie and I, the gift of true baseball history.

Hamels Frustrating Season Continues

We all know that good pitching stops good hitting most of the time, and that games start to get tighter and more tense as pennant races begin to heat up in mid-August and on into September. But three teams battling in a pennant race (well, at least two really are) all playing a 1-0 game on the same night?

Here in Philly we all witnessed the Fightin’s latest frustrations at the hands of a knuckleballer. This time it was Mets righty R.A. Dickey tossing a 1-hitter, of all things. And the one hit was a simple flare that dropped in off the bat of pitcher Cole Hamels. Meanwhile the Braves and Mets were both winning 1-0 games on the same night, the Atlanta win opening up a 3-game lead for them in the division race.

The Phils are playing a bit shorthanded still with both Ryan Howard and Chase Utley out of the lineup. But no hits from anyone in the lineup against a guy who throws most of his pitches at maybe 75mph? You can’t smartly adjust your approach for one game in a known situation like that, especially when it’s already happened to you multiple times in 2010?

A couple of months ago my wife and I had the misfortune of watching the Phils get similarly shut down by the Red Sox extremely hittable veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield in person at Citizens Bank Park. I remember clearly turning to her around the 3rd inning after she said “They better start hitting soon” and telling her something to the effect of “They’ll have 7-8 runs at least before this game is over.” The joke was on me.

Last night, the joke was on Hamels – again. He has been simply masterful for the better part of this season, and yet sits here in mid-August with a 7-9 record. The frustration began on April 18th when Hamels allowed just 7 hits and no walks while striking out 8 over 8 strong innings vs. the Marlins, only to take a loss. An 8-inning no decision on May 4th vs. the Cardinals, an 8-inning 3-hitter vs. the Padres on June 7th, 7-inning 5-hitters vs. the Twins on June 19th and Pirates on July 1st.

Perhaps the worst for Hamels was an 8-inning 1-hitter vs. Saint Louis on July 22nd. So far in August, Hamels has now made three starts. He has allowed just 17 hits and 2 walks across 22 strong innings while striking out 29 batters. For all that excellent work, his win-loss record in those games is now 0-2.

By any reasonable and fair measure, Hamels could very easily have a record somewhere in the 18-4 neighborhood, which would clearly leave him as a leading Cy Young candidate. His season line includes a 3.33 ERA, a 1.23 WHIP, a 157-48 K-BB ratio, and fewer hits than innings pitched. He has been dominant. That he is not contending for his first Cy Young is the fault of the Phillies hitters.

To the absolute credit of the 26-year old lefty, Hamels has grown up. He has not allowed the continual frustrations of the offense to affect him. In the past, any signs of negativity clearly got to the emotional Hamels. He would roll his eyes, stalk around the mound, slam down the resin bag, look Heavenward for answers. This year, no matter the circumstances, he has simply taken the ball and fired.

The maturation of Cole Hamels is something that should benefit the Phillies in September, as should the support of talented veterans Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt joining him this year at the top of the rotation. The return of Howard and Utley will hopefully help the offense begin to get him the results that his pitching has deserved. For today, however, it’s another frustrating morning for the talented young lefty and his 2-time defending pennant winning ballclub.

Roy Halladay Is Perfect

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Doc was all smiles on his perfect night in South Florida

Florida Marlins’ catcher Ronnie Paulino smashed a ball into the hole between 3rd base and shortstop, and for a brief moment everyone watching the game at Sun Life Stadium, players and fans who were in attendance as well as those of us watching at home here in Philly on television, held our collective breaths.

There had been two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning when Paulino came to bat, and the Philadelphia Phillies new ace starting pitcher Roy Halladay had a ‘perfect game’ going.

This meant not a single batter had reached base during the game. Against the Phillies ace, 26 men had come to the plate with a bat in their hands that night for the Fish. All 26 had returned to the dugout having made an out. No hits and no walks. No one had reached on an error.

So history was in the offing when Paulino struck the ball.

There had been only 19 perfect games in the history of Major League Baseball going back well over a century. There had been just one in Phillies franchise history. That was pitched by Hall of Famer Jim Bunning on Father’s Day in 1964.

As Paulino’s smash left his bat, playing third base was the Phillies regular backup shortstop, Juan Castro. Castro had been inserted as a defensive replacement for regular 3rd baseman Placido Polanco. The move would prove a stroke of genius by manager Charlie Manuel.

Castro quickly ranged to his left, stabbed the hard shot grounder, wheeled, and gunned a throw to first baseman Ryan Howard. The throw beat Paulino easily, and Halladay’s historic night of perfection was complete.

The usually calm and reserved Halladay let loose with a big smile as he was embraced by catcher Carlos Ruiz and the rest of his teammates on the mound.

Back in the locker room, his teammates called on him to make a speech. Halladay simply pointed at Ruiz and said “Chooch is the man!”, referring to Ruiz’ nickname and the fact that the catcher had called pitches during the game.

Ruiz later said that he had learned some lessons regarding the Marlins hitters during an effective start the previous night by Kyle Kendrick. Ruiz decided that he would utilize those lessons in calling Halladay’s start.

Whatever it was that Chooch picked up, it worked, and Doc delivered by executing his pitches to perfection. He rarely left the ball out over the plate, needed just a couple of big defensive plays, and struck out a number of hitters on the night.

The Phillies traded for Roy Halladay in the off-season to become a bona fide ace for the Phillies rotation. He has lived up to every bit of the expectations that a veteran former Cy Young Award winner can bring with him.

Though the Phils have struggled somewhat with injuries and inconsistent play, they remain on top of the National League to this point. Halladay is the main reason. He makes the Phillies favorites to win every fifth day. On this particular fifth day, Roy Halladay was perfect.