You hate to base anything on one game.
Especially in a sport like baseball, where David Eckstein can be a World Series MVP. Where Craig Counsell can be the guy at the bottom of the dogpile after scoring the title-clinching run. Where Don Larsen, a journeyman pitcher with a career record of 81-91, can become the only pitcher in baseball history to throw a perfect game in the World Series.
But in one game on Wednesday night, Roy Halladay showed why he is the best pitcher in baseball.
Felix Hernandez? Brilliant. CC Sabathia? A strong, tough workhorse. David Price? A dazzling, rising star. But for all the attention those three have garnered in the contentious AL Cy Young debate, none of them would have a prayer if it were simply the MLB Cy Young. Halladay would own it.
Unlike Larsen in 1956, Halladay didn’t catch lightning in a bottle on Wednesday night. He simply did what he always does: carve up bats and mow down hitters. It’s almost boring how efficiently the right-hander can dominate from the mound. This is nothing new for Halladay, who already has a Cy Young award (2003) and seven All-Star appearance on his resume, and who threw a perfect game back in May of this season. The difference is that after 13 seasons in the big leagues, he finally got the chance to show it on the biggest of stages. In his first playoff start.
There were a couple of scary moments on Wednesday night. Jayson Werth made a nice catch to rob Travis Wood in the third inning. Jimmy Rollins made a pair of rangy plays to chase down grounders from his shortstop position. And Carlos Ruiz made perhaps the toughest play of the night, gunning down Brandon Phillips on a tough-angle throw from his knees for the final out.
But for the most part Halladay dominated, painting the corners with filthy breaking balls and fastballs that darted and dove like … well, like breaking balls. His stuff was so electric that Reds MVP candidate Joey Votto was moved to say it was “like trying to hit nothing. He’s an ace among aces.”
Reds shortstop Orlando Cabrera was so frustrated that he blamed the umpire, claiming Halladay was “getting every pitch.” Sorry Orlando but the evidence suggests otherwise: of Halladay’s 104 pitches, only one of them was erroneously called a strike.
The day before the game, Halladay said he wasn’t going to change anything in preparing for his first postseason start. And why should he? His work ethic and preparation are legendary, his attitude laudable, his talent unmatched.
Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee told Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com that “the only time I worry about Roy Halladay is if he was stuck in traffic.”
Unfortunately for the Reds, Halladay made it to the park in plenty of time, and he made the night his own. He didn’t catch lightning in a bottle, he was already keeping it there. And on Wednesday night it was unleashed it for the world to see.