Frequent victims of Doc, Yanks in awe
No-no in Halladay's first playoff start yields nothing but respect
MINNEAPOLIS -- Batting practice was not yet over, line drives were whizzing around them and yet a dozen or so Yankees stood frozen on Wednesday evening with their backs to home plate. High above them, on Target Field's 5,757-square-foot video board, Roy Halladay was firing the final pitches of the Major Leagues' first postseason no-hitter since Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series.
The Yankees were not going to miss it.
"It doesn't surprise me," said A.J. Burnett, who spent three seasons with Halladay in Toronto. "It just shows you what Roy Halladay is. He never really got a lot of publicity up north, but now in a town like [Philadelphia], the world can really see what Roy Halladay has."
What Halladay had was one of the greatest starts in postseason history, a one-walk no-hitter for the Phillies in his playoff debut against the Reds. And so, preparing for their American League Division Series at Target Field, the Yankees watched and gaped.
"When he's on, he's on," Burnett said. "When he's on like that, he's obviously tough to hit anywhere. And he was on today."
Near the batting cage, former Twins pitcher Jack Morris, who pitched a no-hitter for the Tigers in 1984, also watched with interest.
"That is awesome," Morris said upon the final out. "That is so awesome. It's everything good for baseball right there. Everything good for baseball."
It was not necessarily remarkable, of course, that Halladay was the first pitcher since Larson to throw a postseason no-hitter. Halladay did, after all, throw a perfect game earlier this season for the Phillies, and is good for as many no-hit scares as any pitcher in the game.
But this was Halladay's first playoff start after a dozen years without even sniffing the postseason in Toronto. Even for one of this generation's most accomplished pitchers, thriving in such an atmosphere is no easy task.
"That's pretty impressive in his first postseason start, but I would expect that from him," Burnett said. "He's waited his whole career to get this opportunity, and you know he was prepared. You know he was ready for it, and he showed it."
"His first playoff start, for him to throw a no-hitter is unbelievable," said Yankees lefty CC Sabathia, whose long list of career accomplishments does not include a no-no. "Hats off to him."
The adjectives could have flowed all evening had the Yankees not had a game to play. And it was that game -- a 6-4 win over the Twins -- that gave them a vesting interest in all things Halladay, even if they'd never admit it. If the Yankees defeat the Twins here in Minnesota and eventually make it back to the World Series, they know there's a good chance they'll have to face the Phillies.
And this isn't the same Philadelphia team they knocked off last year en route to their 27th World Series title. These Phillies are different, because these Phillies have Halladay, who's 18-7 with a 2.98 ERA in 38 career games (36 starts) spanning 253 1/3 innings against the Yankees.
"But you basically trade Lee for Halladay," Yankees starter Phil Hughes said, referring to former Phillies and current Rangers lefty Cliff Lee. "To be honest, I don't think Halladay could be any better than Lee was against us in the World Series last year."
Lee, making his World Series debut in Game 1 at Yankee Stadium last October, famously outdueled Sabathia in a complete-game effort.
Given their druthers, though, the Yankees might choose Lee over the alternative.
"We've seen him a bunch," Hughes said of Halladay. "He's tough, and then you add [Cole] Hamels and [Roy] Oswalt to the top of that, and they're very tough. But so is every team that's here."
True. But every team does not have Halladay.
"That's just remarkable," Hughes said. "It's not like he walked four guys, either. He was that close to a perfect game. And especially with that being his first postseason outing, you know he had butterflies. It's something he had been waiting to do. To go out there and not have those butterflies affect you at all and throw a game like that is pretty extraordinary."