Sunday, May 30, 2010
I'll admit I was among those who were not happy that the acquisition of Halladay over the off-season meant that the Phillies would give up the amazingly gifted Cliff Lee. I'll also now stand up and say I was wrong - this did turn out to be a pretty sweet deal. Halladay came into the game at 6-3 with 4 complete games and 2 shutouts already under his belt - a remarkable first two months considering we live in the age of the specialized pitcher, and starters are seldom expected to go more than 6 or 7 innings.
With Marlins' star hurler Josh Johnson on the mound for his team, the game had the makings of a classic pitcher's duel from the words "Play ball!" The early innings did not disappoint. In fact, a pretty stellar performance from Johnson was overlooked in the excitement last night.
You see, Johnson was outstanding, but Halladay was perfect.
I had watched only one no-hitter from start to finish before in my 30+ years of baseball fandom, that being Kevin Millwood's gem against the Giants in 2003. But I had never had the experience of watching every pitch of a perfect game as it happened. Considering this was only 20th perfecto thrown in the history of Major League Baseball, it's not an experience that one has many opportunities for!
After the fifth inning, Phillies' announcer Tom McCarthy mentioned that Halladay had retired the first 15 consecutive batters he had faced. That was the first inkling that a no-hit bid was in the works. By the seventh inning, my Twitter feed, which is usually filled with lively conversation during a Phillies game, had gone as quiet as the Phillies' dugout must have seemed to Halladay. If you aren't aware, there are two very strong superstitions in baseball regarding no-hitters in progress: first, the rest of the team stays as far away from the pitcher in the dugout as possible; second (and most important), no one - NO ONE, not player, not manager, not coach, not announcer, not fan - mentions what is happening. Breaking either tradition risks "jinxing" the game. So, even though we all wanted badly to tweet about what we were watching, nobody dared to post a word.
By the time Halladay took the mound for the ninth inning, even the Marlins' fans stood and applauded, realizing they were watching history unfold. And when pinch-hitter Ronny Paulino grounded out to third baseman Juan Castro to end it, Twitter and Facebook both virtually exploded with celebratory posts. One of the neat things about social media is to be able to share a moment like that with literally hundreds of people all across the world.
Marlins' centerfielder Cameron Maybin was certainly not perfect - his misjudgment of a Chase Utley fly ball in the third resulted in a three-base-error that pushed Wilson Valdez across the plate with the game's lone run.
It was a thing of beauty to watch arguably the best right-handed pitcher in the game right now achieve such a pitching feat. I'm so glad I had the chance to see it!