Am I dreaming, or did Phillies ace Roy Halladay throw a perfect game at Florida? Marlins starter Josh Johnson threw a brilliant seven inning 1 run, 7 hitter at the Phils on Saturday, but 2nd baseman Chase Utley reached in the third inning on centerfielder Cameron Maybin’s fielding error as shortstop Wilson Valdez scored from 1st base giving The Doc the only run he needed in an 11 strikeout, 115 pitch masterpiece as the Phillies’ Halladay goes perfect in a 1-0 win over the Florida Marlins.
With the win, the Phils held on to their 1 1/2 game lead over 2nd place Atlanta in the NL East division as the Braves kept pace by defeating Pittsburgh. The Mets and Washington both lost and fell to 4 games back. The Marlins are now 5 games back in last place in the division.
Halladay’s el-perfecto was the 20th in MLB history and the 2nd this month. Oakland’s Dallas Braden went perfect on the Tampa Bay Rays on May 9th. It was the first time in modern MLB history that there were 2 perfect games in the same season and the first perfect game by a Phils hurler since Jim Bunning’s 1964 Father’s Day gem against the Mets.
At 9:23 p.m., when he got pinch-hitter Ronny Paulino to hit a grounder to third for the 27th out, only then could Halladay bask in his moment—breaking into a big smile and wrapping his arms around catcher Carlos Ruiz before disappearing in a joyous, jumping gray-and-red mob of teammates.
“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 struck out 11, and was cheered by a crowd of 25,086 throughout much of the night. Another fan called later—Vice President Joe Biden dialed up the Phillies’ clubhouse to offer his congratulations when it was over.
“Early in my bullpen I was hitting spots more than I have been. I felt like I just carried that out there,” Halladay said.
While there were a couple of good plays behind him—shortstop Wilson Valdez went deep into the hole for a grounder, backup third baseman Juan Castro went to his knees for another, second baseman Chase Utley ranged well to his left for another fine play—Halladay didn’t need any great defensive work in this gem.
“I think everybody knows you have to have those kind of plays to do something like that,” Halladay said.
Yes, but on this night, the 33-year-old righty known as Doc was a veritable one-man show.
“You’ve got to take your hat off to Doc,” Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “That’s why he is who he is. That’s what they got him for.”
Steely-eyed, standing tall and always working swiftly, Halladay (7-3) broke into a big smile as his teammates rushed in to congratulate him.
The Marlins said they would give Halladay the pitching rubber as a souvenir… Working in the dark, four men went to work on the mound, digging up the slab where Halladay made history.
“Look who’s pitching,” Marlins outfielder Cody Ross said. “It’s Roy Halladay, the best pitcher in baseball. It’s not embarrassing.”
Halladay faced three Marlins pinch-hitters in the ninth. Mike Lamb led off with a long fly ball, but Shane Victorino had plenty of time to backtrack in the super-spacious outfield at Sun Life Stadium and squeeze it for the first out.
Another pinch-hitter, Wes Helms, struck out, and the crowd… simply began to roar.
From there, it was all up to Paulino, who fouled the first pitch into the seats along the first-base side, took ball one, swung and missed for strike two, and then stabbed at Halladay’s 115th and final offering. Castro ranged to his left to get it and threw across to first baseman Ryan Howard, who caught the ball and jumped in the air.
…Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “We gave him one run. He made it stand up. That was good. Super for him.”
Halladay credited catcher Carlos Ruiz for a smooth ride.
“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.”
The NL East leaders’ lone run off Josh Johnson (5-2) came in the third, and fittingly in this battle of aces, it was unearned. Valdez singled, then scored when Chase Utley’s fly to center skipped off Cameron Maybin’s glove for a three-base error.
“It’s one of those things where everything has to go right and it did,” Maybin said. “J.J. did a great job of competing. Unfortunately, one play … that was the ballgame.”
Valdez scored easily. And Halladay had all the support he needed.
Phillies 3B Placido Polanco (bruised left elbow) was sidelined again, Castro getting the call to start for the second straight night. Polanco is expected to undergo an MRI exam on Sunday to see if the problem is more serious than originally thought.
To view the scores of all of Saturday’s MLB games, click here.
The Phils head for Atlanta following Sunday’s game for a 3 game series with the Braves to end the 9 game road trip.
To view all of Sunday’s games, click here.