Commentary

Reds helpless against Roy Halladay

With Roy Oswalt up next, Cincinnati can't afford to dwell on NLDS Game 1

Updated: October 7, 2010, 11:57 AM ET
By Amy K. Nelson | ESPN.com

PHILADELPHIA -- It had been only 10 minutes or so after Brandon Phillips' dribbler in front of home plate closed out Roy Halladay's no-hitter. The Reds second baseman screwed in his earrings, then pulled his socks on as he was asked how he felt about Halladay's feat.

"I'm glad the way we lost the way we did," Phillips said.

Phillips was asked to clarify. He doesn't mind that Halladay just joined Don Larsen -- who threw a perfect game in the 1956 World Series -- as the only two pitchers ever to throw a no-hitter during the playoffs, and that Halladay did it against his team?

"Would you rather lose with the bases loaded, two outs, and you've got the game-winning run on second base?" Phillips said. "How would you rather lose? Like that? Or with no hits?"

Phillips said he prefers avoiding an emotional letdown. Although none of Phillips' teammates echoed that exact sentiment, the Reds' clubhouse wasn't as downtrodden as one might expect after the 4-0 loss in Game 1 of the National League Division Series. Many players attributed it to Halladay being the best pitcher in baseball and that it was a night they were just beaten.

"He didn't miss tonight," said Reds right fielder Jay Bruce, the lone baserunner against Halladay with a fifth-inning walk. "He had all his stuff; he was confident in the [strike] zone, he wasn't worried about missing. He was pounding the zone; he was throwing strikes -- his stuff moves so much that he doesn't have to be too, too fine with it.

"He stayed down in the zone, he didn't leave a bunch of stuff up, and that's the name of the game. He's the best pitcher in the game for a reason."

It seemed as though Halladay got better as he went along. He needed just 10 pitches in the ninth inning to complete his second no-hitter this year, after throwing a perfect game May 29 against the Marlins. Even more impressive, Halladay accomplished it against a team that led the NL this season in runs scored, home runs and batting average.

"You're almost helpless, because the guy was dealing," Reds manager Dusty Baker said.

After the Phillies scored four runs in the first two innings off Reds starter Edinson Volquez, left fielder Jonny Gomes started paying close attention to Halladay when Halladay ran out of the Phillies' dugout. Gomes saw what he feared most: an added hop, some extra energy in Halladay's step. Gomes knew after the second inning it was going to be a long night.

"I've seen a few pitchers do that; seen Cliff Lee do that, seen Johan Santana do that," Gomes said. "It's almost like he's got another gear; he turns into another pitcher when his team gives him the lead. And we saw that tonight."

The Reds, then, won't be shocked to learn just how dominating Halladay was. He threw 89.3 percent of his first pitches for strikes, and in this hitters' park, the Reds managed to hit only four balls out of the infield the entire night. All his pitches -- most hitting the corners of the plate -- were working, but when he threw an off-speed pitch, the Reds were nearly helpless. They missed on 17 of 25 swings they took, and when Halladay threw a changeup, they whiffed eight out of 10 times.

It was the first time a pitcher had no-hit the Reds since the Phillies' Rick Wise did it on June 23, 1971 in Cincinnati. For Bruce, who drew the walk, there were no moral victories.

"I guess, at the end of the day, I can credit myself with a good at-bat," Bruce said. "But it's a team sport. And at the end of the day, that walk obviously didn't matter. The only thing it did was separate a perfect game from a no-hitter. Had it started a rally, had it gotten us going, that would have been different. But he just dialed it in. After that, he just went right back to what he was doing."

Most Cincinnati players said this wouldn't discourage them, that it was just one game and they'd be back on Friday and ready to face Roy Oswalt.

"I have a tremendous amount of respect for Roy [Halladay]," first baseman Joey Votto said. "But I think if we keep the mindset that it's just one game, and arguably the best pitcher in baseball just beat us, we'll be fine."

Added Bruce: "Not to disrespect anything Roy just did. But for us, we have to look at it as just another loss. Yes, he threw a no-hitter, and it's special, and it's happened once in 100 years. But for us, it's a loss. We've got to come back and play Friday."

Baker sat at the postgame news conference, and while his players were reconciling the events that just took place, their manager was asked whether he could have dreamt such a scenario.

"No. If I was thinking of this scenario, it would be like a nightmare," Baker said. "And I don't like having nightmares."

It's hard to imagine that Baker will sleep well after the Reds' loss in Game 1, but he should try. Because in two days, he and the Reds will face another Roy, and he won't be lying in wait.

Amy K. Nelson is a staff writer for ESPN.com. She can be reached at Amy.K.Nelson@espn.com.

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