Last year, when Phillies Network rounded out it’s ranking of Games of the Year, the number one game could have been defined as a play or moment. This truly is the top game of the year. I had mentioned a few days ago that any of the top three games on this list could be right here, but this is the best one you’ll find. So, without further adieu, here is the number one game from 2010.
For a late May game, it’s safe to say the focus of Philadelphia wasn’t on baseball. Two weeks earlier, the Philadelphia Flyers had completed a comeback on the Boston Bruins to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals, and were playing in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals that night. If you’re attention wasn’t on this game at the start, you were forgiven. After all, it’s not every season that a Philadelphia team finds themselves one round from the top prize. But, by the end of the night, all eyes needed to be on this Phillies game.
Roy Halladay had started his Cy Young winning season at 6-1, but had recently slipped. He was laboring through starts, taking a no-decision against the Rockies, losing the lead in the eighth, losing a game against the Pirates, where he fired a complete-game, 132-pitch gem, and losing his worst start of 2010, getting trounced by the Red Sox and allowing seven runs. In search of redemption, having not won a game since May 6, Doc went to work on his best. Doc was known for striving to be perfect. For a pitcher, perfect is not immortal; perfect is doing enough to win. Into the third, he and Josh Johnson were matching each other pitch for pitch, when Chase Utley lined one toward center that changed the game. Utley’s liner sailed on centerfielder Cameron Maybin, and Wilson Valdez raced around to score. The innings of perfection started to pile up for Halladay; six, then seven, then eight. Baseball had seen a perfect game just days earlier. Certainly it couldn’t happen again this fast. But, it was really that close, just three more outs, and Doc was perfect. Leading off the ninth was Mike Lamb. Lamb hit one high and deep toward center, and with Shane Victorino racing back to try to make the play, two thoughts enter the mind: is this the end of perfection, and to top it all off could it tie the game, too? No matter, Lamb’s fly ball went as far as the warning track, but landed safely in Victorino’s glove. Former Phillie Wes Helms was next. He hardly stood a chance, as he was wrung up on a cutter from Doc. All that was left was Ronny Paulino. Paulino was the third Marlins’ pinch-hitter in the inning, and Doc quickly worked ahead of him. At 1-2, Doc needed a strike. He threw a changeup, and Paulino chopped it to third. Juan Castro was filling in for an injured Placido Polanco that night, and scooped it up on a pair of hops. As he spun and fired to first, it was apparent the history that was happening. He had done it. Roy Halladay was mobbed by his teammates for the first of several times that night, and it was only the beginning on the legend he has become to Philadelphia, and baseball as a whole. The Phillies’ offense had been a disaster lately, and after that game, nothing had changed, with only one run, but that night, just one was enough, as Doc’s perfect game led the Phillies to a 1-0 victory over the Marlins.
If Roy Halladay was asked to, he’d try to throw perfect games on a regular basis. And in most cases, he could probably finish quite a few of them. Maybe that’s why it was so hard to believe that Halladay hadn’t thrown even a no-hitter in his career. The perfect game just added to the legend that is Doc. This season alone, Doc won his second Cy Young Award, first in the National League, just the fifth pitcher in baseball history with a Cy Young win in both leagues. Add into that baseball’s 20th perfect game, second Postseason no-hitter, and the rarity of a 20-win season in the modern era of baseball. Not to mention that the pair of no-hitters made him the seventh pitcher with a no-hitter and perfect game, fifth pitcher to throw multiple no-hitters in a season, and the only Phillies’ pitcher with multiple no-hitters. After his Cy Young win, he became just the third pitcher, joining Sandy Koufax and Randy Johnson, as the only pitchers with multiple no-hitters and Cy Young Awards. Doc’s next goals, individually, could be for 300 wins or Cooperstown, and with the way he pitched this season, he could get there, but it was this game that introduced us to the legend that was Doc, and with every start from there, he turned himself into a local hero, and one of the best athletes to ever wear the uniform of a Philadelphia team. It is all because of Doc’s perfect game that we could appreciated the job that Ruben Amaro Jr. did in the offseason, and that despite trading Cliff Lee, he had acquired Doc and signed him long-term. And despite the Phillies not winning the World Series in Doc’s first season, there are still plenty of years left in Philly for Doc to get his chance. Ultimately, this game was one that lives forever. Not a person will forget where they were when Roy Halladay threw a perfect game. And that’s what makes it the number one game for 2010 in Games of the Year.