Don’t start talking about the Legend of Roy Halladay.
This guy is for real.
This is the Legacy of Roy Halladay.
These aren’t unfounded stories that will be handed down to future generations.
These are moments of greatness that the family of baseball can share for generations.
Halladay is 34 and getting better with age. On his way to becoming the game’s next 300-game winner, he has begun to build quite the postseason resume, as well.
That’s why he came to Philadelphia two years ago. He wanted to enjoy the postseason challenge. He got his first stab at October a year ago, and came up short, he and the Phillies losing in the NLCS to the eventual world champion San Francisco Giants.
This year he and the Phillies have a chance to make amends, and it was Halladay doing what Halladay does best — competing — that set the stage for the Phillies to take a first step in the right direction. The journey through the playoffs started with an 11-6 victory against St. Louis in Game 1 of the NL Division Series at on Saturday.
Oh, there was a silencing of the sellout crowd at Citizens Bank Park early. Their icon showed a human side. Four batters into the game, and the Cardinals, thanks to a three-run home run from Lance Berkman, had a 3-0 lead.
Then, to lead off the second, St. Louis second baseman Skip Schumaker opened the door for another possible rally with a leadoff single.
Seven St. Louis batters into the game, Halladay already had allowed three runs and four baserunners.
Halladay took a deep breath.
St. Louis was about to be suffocated.
“I was upset, but the thing you think about is, I can’t get it back,” said Halladay. “I can’t go out and subtract runs. You have your moment of frustration and you move on. I felt like at that point the frustration was out. I’m not going to pack it in. I’m going to stick to my plan. I’ve got a job to do.”
Halladay retired the next 21 batters he faced, retiring the first 20 by either a ground ball, pop up or strikeout. Rafael Furcal finally flied out to left to end the eighth, and Halladay’s day of work.
By then, the Phillies had erased that early St. Louis lead thanks in no small part to the explosive bat of Ryan Howard. The Phillies first baseman keyed a five-run sixth against Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse with a three-run home run that put the Phillies up 4-1. The shot ended a personal nine-game postseason RBI drought for the Phillies slugger.
“That’s the game right there,” Halladay said of the Howard home run. “One big swing (by Berkman) put them ahead, and one big swing (by Howard) gave it back to us, and we were able to add on from there.”
After taking the 6-1 lead in the sixth, the Phillies added three more in the seventh, including a Howard sacrifice fly, and two more in the eighth. The cushion proved to be more than enough to withstand the three-run ninth the Cards tacked on the Philadelphia bullpen.
“We just knew it was a matter of time,” Howard said. “We just needed to get the momentum on our side.”
Lohse was good early. He retired the first 10 batters he faced and skipped through five innings having allowed only two hits and one unearned run. In the sixth, however, Halladay was rewarded for his persistence.
“We didn’t ever think three runs were going to win (the game),” said Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, “but we couldn’t add on. We had a couple chances (in the second inning), but Halladay just got tougher. Halladay has never backed away from a challenge.”
Even early in his career, when he was sent from the big leagues back to Single-A in 2001, and there were questions if he would ever return to the top, Halladay refused to give in. He pitched his way back to Toronto by that season’s end, and began building a Hall of Fame resume in 2002.
He’s 188-92 in his career, 170-75 in the last 10 years. He has worked more than 200 innings in eight of those 10 seasons, won the Cy Young in both the AL (2003) and NL (2010), and been selected to an All-Star team eight times.
“He competes,” said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel.
He proved that against the Cardinals. He struggled through a 20-pitch, 9-ball, three-run first inning, and then needed only 85 pitches, 65 of which were strikes, to hold the Cardinals in check over the next seven innings.
“He was kind of like a Rocky movie,” said Manuel. “He got mad after he gave up the home run (to Berkman). That ticked him off and he hung in there and he got going. But he’s special. He’s everything that people talk about.”
It’s not like Halladay could get too upset about that home run. It was, he admitted, a hitter’s pitch that Berkman hit, and that was nobody’s fault except Halladay, himself.
“It was pretty much thigh-high, center cut, about as bad as you can put it,” said Halladay. “After that I tried to stay the course. I couldn’t think of a worst start.”
Halladay and the Phillies, however, did find as good a finish as they could have hoped for.