Posted by: mdegeorge | October 6, 2010

Worth the wait? Halladay delivers transcendent debut

It was quite simply the stuff of legends.

It was a decade’s worth of second division frustrations released in a virtuoso performance the likes of which the world hasn’t seen in a half century. It was perhaps pitch-for-pitch the most dominant display of control by one human being over a group of peers (and that term is used loosely) ever to be played out on a baseball diamond.

The numbers require no embellishment.

28 batters faced, one of whom reached base via a walk.

104 pitches, 79 strikes of them strikes.

25 of 28 batters down in the count 0-1. Only three betters to see the promise of a three-ball count.

The first postseason no-hitter in 54 years.

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Entering the postseason, the tried and tested Phillies had one question mark (or, perhaps more accurately, a question that no one had yet asked): how would the great Roy Halladay respond in his first ascent of the postseason mound.

Even on the radio, the game had an ethereal ambiance to it that surpassed the visual. Perhaps it was the rainbow over Delco or the anticipation of the dawn of October.

But by the end of four innings, a phrase like “Wake up Don Larsen” was little more than a reflex. The walk to Jay Bruce did little to diminish the palpability of that feeling.

Entering the ninth, there was little doubt Doc would complete the deal, regardless if he had to go through Joey Votto or Joe Morgan, Johnny Gomes or Johnny Bench.

It was a day when even the greats could have folded: the hometown pressure, the postseason debut, the expectations. Instead, it was a stage for a performance that was brilliant.

And in true Halladay fashion, befitting the hardest-working pitcher in the Bigs, he made his post-game speeches with the expression of a man pleasantly surprised that his SEPTA bus had arrived slightly ahead of schedule. His plaudits were reserved not for his own deeds, but for those of his catcher.

Perhaps the biggest compliment and the only hope of providing context to such a monumental performance was the announcers dubbing him “a tall Greg Maddux.”

But even such a comparison fails mightily. Maddux, 11-14 in the postseason with two complete games and no shoutouts, is perhaps the only person in recent memory able to match Halladay’s clinical percision in espousing the craft of pitching.

Where Maddux dissected the plate, tonight Halladay’s cutters, curves, and two-seamers bulldozed it. Where Maddux baffled, Halladay simply dazzled. Where Maddux was clinical, Halladay was authoritarian.

And where Maddux was only mediocre, tonight Halladay was quite simply and undeniably the best.

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