MIAMI – Roy Halladay was the last one to walk into the Philadelphia Phillies’ clubhouse at Sun Life Stadium on Saturday. The entire team gave him a standing ovation as he made his way to his locker in the far corner of the room.
“He smiled!” center fielder Shane Victorino said.
It took a perfect game for the stoic Halladay to snap his humble personality.
“Say something!” the players yelled.
Halladay pointed at his catcher, Carlos Ruiz, and smiled again.
“I don’t have anything else to say,” Halladay said.
And they all cheered.
Halladay became the 20th pitcher in major league history and second Phillie to pitch a perfect game. The Phillies defeated Florida 1-0 on an unearned run in the third inning.
Jim Bunning pitched the only other Phillies’ perfect game, a 6-0 victory over the Mets on Father’s Day 1964.
The final out was a ball hit into the hole on the left side. Juan Castro, who had played two innings at first base this season entering the game, made the play, spun around and threw to first to retire pinch-hitter Ronny Paulino.
Halladay pounded his right fist into his black glove and put his arms up as Ruiz ran toward him for a bear hug.
It was all over: 27 up, 27 down.
“It’s something you never think about,” Halladay, 33, said. “It really is. It’s hard to explain. There’s days where things just kind of click and things happen.”
Pitching coach Rich Dubee said Halladay made adjustments from his last start – an ugly 52/3-inning outing against Boston in which he allowed seven runs.
His first step in his wind-up was off. Halladay said he spoke to Jamie Moyer about it, too.
“He hasn’t been as comfortable in his delivery,” Dubee said. “We talked about things. He was locked in tonight. It was one of those exceptional nights.”
“He did a hell of a job, man,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.
The only run scored when Florida center fielder Cameron Maybin misjudged a Chase Utley flyball, turning it into a three-base error that allowed Wilson Valdez to score in the third.
That was it.
Halladay had seven three-ball counts, including two in the first. Six of his 11 strikeouts – including the final four – were called by home-plate umpire Mike DiMuro.
But, really, there were few close plays.
“Was that his first?” Castro asked a reporter as he cracked a celebratory beer.
Yes, it was, but Halladay has been so dominant over his 13-year career that it felt like this should have happened sooner.
“A guy who competes like he does, I’m not saying he has a chance every time, but I’m surprised he doesn’t already have a no-hitter,” Moyer said.
In fact, in 1998, he carried a no-hitter through 82/3 innings in his second start in the majors only to have Detroit’s Bobby Higginson break it with a home run.
Halladay said he didn’t feel as if he had a chance for the perfect game until Paulino stepped up with two outs in the ninth.
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