On one night, Halladay shows why he's the best

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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.

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Phillies walk off winners thanks to a poor decision by Marcell Ozuna

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The Phillies’ bullpen, which has not been good as of late, gift-wrapped Monday’s game for the Cardinals. Starter Nick Pivetta was brilliant, fanning 13 while allowing two runs in 7 1/3 innings. But things unraveled after he left the game. Victor Arano took over for Edubray Ramos to start the ninth inning with the Phillies leading 4-2, but he allowed a one-out single and a double. After striking out Harrison Bader, Arano appeared to strike out Yairo Munoz for the final out of the game, but the ball trickled through the legs of catcher Andrew Knapp, allowing a run to score and the tying run to move to third base. Lefty Adam Morgan came in to face pinch-hitter Kolten Wong. Wong tied the game up, sneaking a single into center field.

In the 10th inning, Jake Thompson gave up the go-ahead run on a leadoff home run to Tommy Pham. It seemed like it was just going to be another one of those losses that have become increasingly common for the Phillies lately. But the Phillies’ offense didn’t go down quietly, even though it hadn’t put a runner on second base since the start of the second inning when J.P. Crawford doubled. In the bottom half of the 10th, Hoskins blooped a single into shallow left-center to start the inning. Hoskins moved to second base on a ground out from Odubel Herrera. Matt Bowman intentionally walked Carlos Santana, then struck out Jesmuel Valentin. That brought up Aaron Altherr, who replaced Nick Williams after Williams took a baseball to the face off of the right field fence. Bowman fell behind 2-1, then threw a 90 MPH fastball that Altherr lined into left field. Rather than keep the ball in front of him, Marcell Ozuna decided to dive for the ball to make the final out, but he missed. The ball trickled past him, allowing the tying and the game-winning runs to score, giving the Phillies a come-from-behind win.

On the list of people happy to see Ozuna miss that ball are Altherr (of course), Arano, Morgan, and Thompson. But perhaps no one was happier than manager Gape Kapler. The win might help take the heat off of him somewhat after another poor performance from the bullpen. When a team struggles, everyone wants a scapegoat and Kapler is an easy target. He has been all year, undeservingly.

Phillies radio broadcaster and former major league reliever Larry Anderson said after the bullpen meltown, “Not everybody can pitch in the ninth inning. And I know Gabe Kapler thinks they can, but they can’t.” Aside from Ramos and Seranthony Dominguez (who was unavailable after throwing 52 pitches between Saturday and Sunday in Milwaukee), no one in that bullpen has been reliable. The closer, Hector Neris, just got optioned to Triple-A. You work with what you have, and right now, Kapler doesn’t have a whole lot. Thankfully for him, he wasn’t punished with another loss thanks to Ozuna.