Heading into the ninth inning, Philadelphia Phillies ace Roy Halladay was just three outs from the most stellar performance of his career. With two outs in the last inning, the Florida Marlins sent pinch-hitter Ronny Paulino to the plate. Much was riding on his at-bat. The Marlins were down 1-0 with one out remaining and more importantly, Halladay was on the verge of a perfect game.
Halladay got Paulino to ground out to third for the final out and gave Halladay the 20th perfect game in Major league Baseball History.
“It’s never something that you think is possible,” Halladay said. “Really, once I got the two outs, I felt like I had a chance. You’re always aware of it. It’s not something that you expect.”
Halladay was cheered by the Marlins’ crowd through much of the game and finished with 11 strike outs. A few big plays by the Phillies defense aided in his perfect performance and Halladay realizes the importance of the players behind him.
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“I think everybody knows you have to have those kind of plays to do something like that,” Halladay said.
Going into the ninth inning riding a perfect game is something Halladay has experienced before only to have a different outcome. In just the second major league start of his career back in 1998, Halladay had a chance to seal a no-hitter while pitching for the Blue Jays. But Bobby Higginson ended it on the first pitch with a solo home run. The former AL Cy Young winner is just happy he was able to finish this one.
“It’s hard to explain,” Halladay said. “There’s days where things just kind of click and things happen. It’s something you obviously, you don’t ever go out and try to do. It’s a great feeling. It’s a lot better than the eight and two-thirds.”
This past week had been a tough week for Philadelphia. They were shut out by the New York Mets in three straight days which is unusual for the Phillies who have been strong offensively this year. Philadelphia got the only run they needed in the third by Wilson Valdez who scored after Chase Utley’s fly ball to center skipped off Cameron Maybin’s glove for a three-base error. The Phillies finished the game with just seven hits.
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“He did what he had to do,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “We gave him one run. He made it stand up. That was good. Super for him.”
This marks the second perfect game for Philadelphia. The first was accomplished back in 1964 by Jim Bunning. Also, this is the second time that the Marlins had been no-hit in their history. Halladay gives his catcher Carlos Ruiz much credit for his performance behind the plate.
“We felt like we got in a groove early and about the fifth or the sixth I was just following Chooch,” he said. “I can’t say enough about the job he did today. Mixed pitches. For me it was really a no-brainer.”