|10.09.10 at 3:47 pm ET|
New Reds manager Dusty Baker came over to Red Sox skipper Terry Francona and exchanged a handshake and an embrace.
Baker and Francona have always had mutual respect for one another.
And on Saturday here in Cincinnati, less than 24 hours after his team committed four errors in a 7-4 meltdown at Citizens Bank Park – booting away a realistic chance of beating the powerhouse Phillies in the NLDS – Baker summoned the words of Francona from 2004.
It was then that Francona – down 3-0 to the Yankees – told his team just take care of business in the next game and the rest will take care of itself. By coming back and winning four in a row on their way to the title, the Red Sox not only gave their fans the gift of a lifetime, they provided inspiration and hope for every team that follows that no matter the odds, there’s always a chance.
On Saturday, Baker – just minutes before his team’s workout on a brilliant, sunny day at Great American Ball Park – reminded everyone that despite the predicament, the Reds still have a fighter’s chance.
” It is a tough spot, but it’s not impossible,” Baker said. “All things are possible through faith and perseverance. I’ve been in this situation, down 2-1, down three with three to go in 1980.”
“Arroyo was in Boston when they were down 3-0 in a best-of-7, and they came back and won four,” Baker recalled. “The hardest thing is to win one. And you win one, and you got yourself some action. And we’ve got our backs up against the wall, but this club performs well with our backs up against the wall. That’s the kind of club we have. I wish we didn’t always have our backs against the wall, but, you know, we’ve been there before, not necessarily in elimination, but we’re just trying to get one.”
Cabrera has likely seen his last action until the World Series – if the Reds can pull off a miraculous comeback – since he re-aggravated a left oblique injury turning a double play in the fourth inning Friday night.
Baker, who always handles himself with grace in answer questions, was asked if it’s easier having a young team in this position who may not know what they don’t know.
“No, I don’t think it’s easy to be in this situation at all,” Baker said. “I would rather be up 2-0. Personally, I was thinking this morning about, you know, when I was in the military, and you would rather be in a situation where, on your second or third tour of duty, to know what to do rather than your first tour.
“This is the first tour for these guys and you’re actually more resilient as you get older, because you’ve been through more, you’ve been through more problems. Like I said before the worst situation in your whole life, until you get the to next one. I’m not worried too much about these guys.
If you’re wondering if Baker loses sleep after coming out on the wrong end of a disastrous game like Friday, don’t.
“Well, you don’t exactly forget about it,” Baker said. “I have no trouble going to sleep. I can go to sleep in a matter of seconds. I’m a kind of mid-sleep insomniac, it wakes me up at 4, 4:30 thinking about things. And I try not to think about the game, because you can’t bring that back. Going forward, lineup changes, different things we have to do to win, because you cannot do anything about replaying the game. It’s impossible. It does no good.
“So one of the best books I read this year was, “The Power of Now”, which tells you to get out of the past and get into the present,” Baker said. “And that’s the only thing you can control, is right now. We can’t bring it back.”
But Baker wouldn’t mind if the spirit of the 2004 Red Sox showed up suddenly in 2010.
|10.08.10 at 11:38 pm ET|
Peter Gammons of the MLB Network and NESN checked in with The Big Show on Friday to talk about the playoffs, instant replay, and the Red Sox owners’ acquisition of the Liverpool soccer club. Gammons started by making a pitch to Boston baseball fans to watch the playoffs: ‘I realize people in Boston don’t want to watch the Yankees. It’s just the Giants and the Phillies are so fun to watch’¦I think the most compelling potential series without a doubt is the Giants playing the Phillies.’
Following are some highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, visit The Big Show audio on demand page here.
On Roy Halladay‘s no-hitter :
I don’t know if anybody had too many doubts about it. He’s such a special guy. I was writing a column today about the Yankees and if you look at [Andy] Pettitte and [Derek] Jeter, their numbers for the postseason are exactly the same for the career and regular season. But their ability just to space everything out and have that tunnel vision and concentrate exactly and they don’t get wrapped up in this game, and that’s the way for Halladay, the same thing, it’s the norm rather than being dramatic about it. I guess some of these teams get too fired [up], and think, ‘Oh boy, we’re going to play with the crowd.’ Just concentrate on what you do. Halladay shuts everything out so well. I actually think you’re going to see that in Roy Oswalt, too. He’s different than Halladay. Halladay is incredibly creative and so forth and he has, what, five different fastballs now, two different cutters, change-up, a split, and all the rest. Oswalt is so convicted in everything he does. I mean, I once asked [former teammate] Brad Ausmus, ‘Is that arrogance or conviction?’ And he said, ‘When you’re good it’s not arrogance, its conviction.’ And I think you’ll really see that from him too.
Is it time for Instant replay? Will it slow down games that much?
I maintain that it would speed up games because you wouldn’t have coaches, players, managers everybody running around the field; getting 14 different groups of umpires converging on the field. If you had in the playoffs a seventh umpire with all the technology they have, they could make the decision in 30 seconds.
I’ll give you an example that just amazed me. At the Hall of Fame induction, Doug Harvey got in. That’s great. He was a tremendous umpire. There were a lot of current and former umpires up there who made it very clear to me that they were very upset with Jim Joyce. They thought the umpire’s association should’ve disciplined Jim Joyce for admitting he was wrong in the [Armando] Galarraga case [when Joyce admitted to blowing a call that ruined a perfect game]. I actually thought it was the best moment of the year for an umpire. First of all, Jim Joyce, I believe was second in the player rankings. The fact is, okay I’m a human, I’m really sorry I ruined a place in history for this guy. There’s the whole point where you should never, ever admit you’re wrong, we don’t need replay. The administration of umpiring for me; for instance, you can’t have a replay on a check swing, I understand that. But I wish they had it in the rule book. About five years ago I was working with Bobby Valentine and there was a check swing that was a very controversial call. Now I have to admit I don’t do what Bobby Valentine did, which was always have the rule book in the bathroom, to study it every day about three times. So we called up one of the umpire administrators, a really good one. We said, ‘Could you go through the manuals and find what the definition of a check swing is?’ He called us back about four hours later and said ‘There is no rule in any manual about what a check swing is.’ It’s like pornography, you know it when you see it.
On the importance of the bullpen in undermining the Red Sox:
I think it’s more like one to eight on your pitching staff. If you’re bringing your bullpen in in the fifth and sixth inning, it’s never a good thing. I said this a bunch of times in September, I never realized how important Hideki Okajima was to that team for three years. That guy did every role possible. He was great at it, and when he went, they basically ended up with a two-man bullpen. All those different things that Okajima did: get left handers out, pitch two and a third innings here, and close’¦There’s no question. There was no seventh inning-get-you-into-the-eighth-inning guy’¦ They didn’t get the innings, the outs out of [Josh] Beckett that they would normally expect. He got three outs after the seventh inning the entire season.
Should Red Sox fans be concerned about $450 million purchase of Liverpool Soccer Team?
Listen, I think it’s fair. We don’t know yet exactly what the economics are of this. I know that they have said this doesn’t affect baseball operations at all. We don’t know. The fans are going to be screaming, ‘Wait a minute, is this going to expand income or make it tougher?’ We’re not going to be adding that much payroll at the trading deadline. I understand that. The budget, they went over by signing [Adrian] Beltre for $10 million dollars. Is this going to impact them? ‘¦The fans have a right to ask that. I don’t have any problem but it’s up to the Red Sox to answer that. How much of Tom Hicks‘ debt do they have to take in this? …
I think they are going to have to be proactive and address it. OK, they’re not going to spend $205 million. OK, [if Adrian] Beltre goes, and they end up playing [Jed] Lowrie at third, sign Carl Crawford, and have the first five guys in the lineup being [Jacoby] Ellsbury, [Dustin] Pedroia, Crawford, Victor Martinez, [Kevin] Youkilis. OK, fans can buy into this, go out and get a few relievers. OK, fans can buy into this. If it’s, OK, we’re going to get Adam LaRoche and who else, you know fans are going to be screaming. And that amazing sell out streak may not be so amazing. I was amazed that last Saturday night, starting a game at 9:15, with [Daisuke Matsuzaka] starting, assuring it wasn’t going to get done until one in the morning, that place was packed, I couldn’t believe it. It can come to an end and it’s one of those dangers when you try to do too many things. I think most fans say, ‘Well why can’t they focus on baseball and nothing else?’
Now I happen to feel there’s a chance that the Yankees get old in a few years, especially if they have to sign [Derek] Jeter for five years’¦I think they have a chance to get old and the division has a chance to be a 90-95 win division instead of a 95-105 win division. Fans are always going to believe the Yankees are going to have 100 wins every year.
On Cliff Lee’s Future with the Rangers, and the Rangers having a ton of money thanks to a new TV deal:
I think there’s a lot of debt they have to deal with. I know there are a lot of people, owners and general managers saying, ‘Major League Baseball was paying the bills. You can’t tell me that they didn’t know this $3 billlion dollar deal was coming.’ ‘¦ I can see Texas really being in that hunt with Cliff Lee, I think they’ll be very active. The rest of that pitching staff is low cost’¦There’s no question that the new ownership with Nolan Ryan, the group is going to be saying, ‘We’re building around Cliff.’ I think that would be a big blow to the Yankees. When I heard about that [TV] deal, I thought Cliff Lee might end up in Texas.
|10.08.10 at 10:22 pm ET|
It is not the most significant measure of Ryan Westmoreland‘s progress by any stretch of the imagination. Far from it.
At this point, the most significant elements of the 20-year-old’s recovery from March surgery to remove a cavernous malformation on his brain stem are taking place off the field. Even so, it was difficult for those who saw the moment not to be excited.
Westmoreland, who is in Fort Myers for the Fall Instructional League with other Red Sox minor leaguers, started taking batting practice again last week for the first time since the procedure. He is currently taking batting practice two or three times a week, and while there is a long, uncharted distance to the point where he once again might play in games, what Westmoreland has done already must be considered almost remarkable.
“He hit a ball off the fence in batting practice the other day,” farm director Mike Hazen marveled. “It’s been pretty cool to watch. He’s got a long way to go, but he’s definitely showing signs of progress and improvement, incremental in some areas, significant in others.
“We’re in uncharted territory, and we’re going to continue to be until there’s ultimate success of playing in a game. That’s what we’re shooting for right now,” he continued. “It’s really exciting to watch. He’s excited. It’s progress.”
Westmoreland’s baseball activities now include batting practice (while he is currently hitting 2-3 times a week, the Sox expect him to progress to hitting five or six times a week) as well as daily work doing tee work, taking flips and soft toss and doing some throwing (though no situational throwing at this point). Yet as significant as it is for Westmoreland to be back in a daily baseball routine, it is not the most important measure of the strides that he has made not just in the seven months since his surgery, but even in the last six weeks.
“[Baseball activities are] sort of the candy here for him everyday,” said Hazen. “It’s not really the focus of what we’re doing, but that’s sort of the fun part of what we’re doing, so we don’t get into that situation ‘ just like with any guy who is rehabbing, no matter the injury ‘ with stagnation.
“Five weeks ago in Lowell, he could not do four-fifths of the things he’s doing right now. Just taking that short window of progress, just from a volume standpoint ‘ his stamina, his core strength, his body fat, his cardiovascular endurance ‘ all of those things have taken a 180,” he continued. “For the first six months, he wasn’t really able to do much, and now he’s able to get after it. He’s working out in a pool, he’s doing all sorts of sprint workouts, agility workouts, ladder drills, he’s doing a lot of different things that he wasn’t doing a month ago. So I think those things are what give you the most optimism.”
Where that will lead Westmoreland, at least in his baseball career, no one can say with any sort of certainty. This is not Tommy John surgery, with a well-defined rehab path with a near guarantee of a return to the field. As he works to regain his motor function, there is a long road ahead for the outfielder, who entered 2010 as the top-rated prospect in the Red Sox system. There is no precedent to define how realistic the goal of a return to games is. And so, it remains unknown where his surgery and rehab, already a major success by just about any measure, will take him, and when — or whether he will fulfill the goal of returning to games.
Yet seven months into his recovery and rehab, Westmoreland continues to take steps that bring him steadily closer to his goal. While there are no guarantees for the 20-year-old’s career, nothing has been ruled out, either.
“You certainly can’t put anything past this kid,” said Hazen.
|10.08.10 at 5:19 pm ET|
The Red Sox have removed catchers Dusty Brown and Kevin Cash as well as right-handed pitcher Robert Manuel from their 40-man roster. All three will become free agents five days after the World Series.
Cash was acquired from the Astros in the middle of the season, when the Sox had four catchers on their 40-man roster (Victor Martinez, Jason Varitek, Mark Wagner and Brown) on the disabled list. Cash, in his second stint with the Sox, played in 29 games, hitting .133 with a .374 OPS while driving in one. He received raves from the Sox for his clubhouse impact.
Brown appeared in seven games, going 3-for-12 with a pair of runs batted in. The 28-year-old was in his 10th year in the Sox organization.
Manuel, claimed off waivers from the Mariners last offseason, had a 4.26 ERA in 10 appearances for the Red Sox, holding opponents to a .213 average. The 27-year-old’s most notable outing of the season, however, came when he issued a pair of bases-loaded walks against the White Sox on Sept. 5.
|10.08.10 at 10:57 am ET|
Padres owner Jeff Moorad told the San Diego Union-Tribune that he expects that his team almost certainly will retain first baseman Adrian Gonzalez for the 2011 season. The team has a $5.5 million option on the superstar for next year, a salary that will fit within the Padres’ projected payroll, which is expected to fall short of $50 million.
However, longer term, Moorad suggested that he is not sure whether it is “practical from a financial standpoint” for the club to re-sign Gonzalez to a long-term deal beyond his current contract. Gonzalez, slated to reach free agency after next year, is expected to use the eight-year, $180 million deal signed by Mark Teixeira and the Yankees as a frame of reference for his next deal. That being the case, while the Padres plan to meet with Gonzalez’ agent, John Boggs, this offseason, Moorad expressed skepticism that a deal could be worked out.
‘At this point, I expect him to be on our roster next season,’ Moorad said of his All-Star first baseman. ‘I think [Padres GM Jed Hoyer is] committed to sit down with (agent) John Boggs at some point and I’m sure we’ll get a feel about Adrian’s view of the future. Beyond that, our position hasn’t changed.
‘While we’d still love to have Adrian here long-term, it doesn’t appear to be practical from a financial standpoint. So I’m certainly not counting on that. But we’ll engage and see if there’s a deal that can be made.’
Gonzalez hit .298 with a .393 OBP, .904 OPS, 31 homers and 101 RBI in 2010, despite playing half his games in Petco Park, one of the most offensively challenged environments in the majors. The 28-year-old was named to his third straight All-Star team in 2010.
|10.07.10 at 2:59 pm ET|
Red Sox manager Terry Francona made his last appearance of the season on the Dale & Holley show Thursday afternoon after being delayed one day due to the Randy Moss trade coverage. Francona talked about his thoughts on the trade, as well as ESPN’s 30-for-30 show about the Red Sox’ 2004 World Series run, and the start to his baseball offseason.
“I’m having knee surgery on Wednesday,” Francona said. “Next time you guys see me, I’m going to be 6-foot-1 and not bow-legged. I’m going to get that extra half-inch back, and I’m going to have to buy some new jeans.”
Following are highlights from the conversation. To listen to the interview, check out the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.
What did you think of the Randy Moss trade?
I don’t know. I don’t know. I’m sure there’s a lot going on in those walls that we’re not privy to that would be really interesting.
How do you handle personalities on the team, especially ones that become agitated or irritated?
Well, it’s not just how to handle it ‘ sometimes I’m not sure you do. I think what you have to figure out is when does the production better outweigh the amount of headaches. When that stops happening, then I think teams start looking at different ways to look things.
Is there one thing that you can’t get past, in terms of player’s attitudes?
That doesn’t happen too much here. There are some things that probably aren’t very serious, you know. Go back to Jay Payton. Jay didn’t want to be here. We had a little episode in the dugout where it got a little loud, and so we kind of had to back up, you know, what I said. Don’t want to happen very often. That puts me in a tough spot, and I don’t like doing that. Since then, Jay and I have talked a couple of times, so that’s OK.
Again, when you get emotional during a game, you try not to say things that you either don’t mean or you have to carry out on, you know. You try to stay a little even-keeled and make good decisions not based on emotion, because that’s where you make mistakes.
Is it safe to say that one of the jobs of a manager is to praise publicly and criticize privately?
I agree with that. I don’t know that everybody does, everybody has their own style. Again, if we have a message to deliver that’s maybe not going to be real popular, we do it behind closed doors. That’s how I would like to be treated. I wouldn’t want to be embarrassed in front of the public. I think players just like to know that the manager kind of has their back. That doesn’t mean we don’t talk to them, and they all know that. But we don’t need to do it through the media.
|10.07.10 at 10:35 am ET|
PHILADELPHIA — This figures to be a much, much different playoff experience for Bronson Arroyo.
He was part of the greatest baseball story ever written when the Red Sox overcame the 3-0 hole against the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS and swept the Cardinals in the World Series, ending 86 years of suffering.
Arroyo, Cincinnati’s leader with a career-high 17 wins this season, starts Game 2 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park on Friday for the Reds. And they need him now more than ever after the Redlegs were no-hit and overpowered by the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 1 of the NLDS on Wednesday, 4-0.
Arroyo, of course, has seen drama before in his big league postseason career. He was the starting pitcher in Game 3 against the Yankees in 2004, the game that ended 19-8, Yankees but began the most historic comeback in baseball history. But many forget that he was also the pitcher who came on in the eighth inning of Game 6 to relieve Schilling, the inning that featured the infamous Alex Rodriguez swipe at Arroyo’s glove.
So will all of that help Friday?
“I think just a little bit,” Arroyo said. “I think it’s overplayed a little bit. Because at the end of the day after you get through that first inning, everything kind of settles down, you get into your comfort zone. You feel like it’s a normal game for the most part until you get into a couple of sticky situations.
“But as long as you can control your emotions and your adrenaline level early on in the ballgame, you’re going to be fine. I think a guy like Roy’s been playing the game for a long time. I don’t think he’s going to have any problems dealing with the environment.”
He pitched twice in the World Series triumph over the Cardinals (Games 1 and 4), earning a ring and a place in Red Sox lore.
“I’ve said over the last couple days, I think it’s going to be hard to top ’04 for anything I do in my career again,” Arroyo said. “But as far as just getting to the playoffs and feeling that you’re a bigger part of the ballclub, this is definitely sweeter for me.
“In Boston I was flying under the radar, I was riding on the coattails of Curt Schilling and Derek Lowe and Pedro Martinez. And they just expected me to go out and pitch five or six innings and give them a chance to win. Where on this club for the last four or five years, I’ve been in the front of the rotation, and I’ve had to shoulder a lot more responsibility.” Read the rest of this entry »
|10.07.10 at 9:20 am ET|
PHILADELPHIA — Dusty Baker has seen a lot of history in his days as a major league manager.
Baker was on-deck when Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth‘s home run record on April 8, 1974. He watched his San Francisco Giants experience heartbreak in the 2002 World Series when they lost a 5-0 lead in Game 6. And he was in the dugout the next year managing the Chicago Cubs in 2003 when Steve Bartman – not Moises Alou – caught a foul pop near the left field wall at Wrigley Field in Game 6 of the NLCS, just five outs away from Chicago’s first trip to the World Series since 1945.
So he’s certainly seen both sides of history before. That should help as he readies his team for Friday night’s Game 2 in South Philly. What he saw Wednesday in Philadelphia certainly qualifies as Roy Halladay became the second pitcher in MLB postseason history to throw a no-hitter with a 4-0 gem over his Cincinnati Reds.
Get over it? Baker thinks his team certainly can.
“Well, I mean, you have no choice,” he said. “It still counts as a loss, but that was a very dramatic loss. That is the best pitched game I’ve seen since I’ve been going to the playoffs and the World Series. You have no choice but to bounce back. You’ve got to put that one behind us. Figure we got beat by a great performance tonight.
“The thing about it is, you know, I don’t think he threw anything down the heart of the plate, everything was on the corners and moving. I don’t know what his percentage was, but it looked like he threw 90 percent for first pitch strikes. Any time you do that with the stuff he has, then he can go to work on you after that.”
Baker managed his Reds to a 91-71 record and the NL Central Division title. He was rewarded Monday with a two-year contract extension.
Was Baker even thinking of this possibility before the game with Halladay on the mound?
“No, if I was thinking of this scenario, it would be like a nightmare, and I don’t like having nightmares. This is the last thing on my mind. You know, last time I think we hit him pretty good in Cincinnati. He made the proper adjustments. He was working very quickly. No, like I said, you don’t want to get beat, number one, and you hate getting shutout, number two, and even worse, no hits.
“One thing’s for sure, we’re due to get a lot of hits after this game.”
The flip side of the experience coin is Reds outfielder Jay Bruce, whose dramatic homer leading off the ninth inning eight days earlier gave his Reds the division title, feels the Reds can bounce back. But Bruce also admitted something else. The Reds were stunned by what hit them – or more to the point – what they didn’t hit on Wednesday.
“You have to have a short memory,” said Bruce, whose fifth-inning walk was the only thing between Halladay and a perfect game. “None of these guys are going to be easy. It’s the playoffs and we’re all here for a reason. There’s a little shock factor right now I think but I fully expect us to be ready to go the next game.”
Bruce – in only his second full season at the age of 23 – has become a true spokesman for one of the landmark franchises in the sport. And what he said after Wednesday night’s game spoke to why even teammates 10 and 15 years older respect him so much.
“Honestly I don’t think it’s going to be a problem,” Bruce said of the Reds’ psyche. “We’re all grown men here and we can be professional enough to move on and get ready for the next game ahead of us because, and I’m not discounting anything Roy did, at the end of the day, it’s just a loss.”
|10.07.10 at 9:02 am ET|
Now we flash forward to Wednesday night in Philadelphia, where Halladay could not only be found pitching in the National League Division Series with the Phillies, but also tossing the second-ever postseason no-hitter, and first since Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series.
What has time told us: Whatever the investment needed to secure Hallday — which in the case of Philadelphia was Cliff Lee (who was entering the final year of his contract), along with minor league prospects Travis D’Arnaud, Kyle Drabek, and Michael Taylor — it probably would have been worth it. Not only was it Halladay’s second no-hitter this season — which included a 21-10 record, 2.44 ERA, and 250 2/3 innings — but now, for the first time, the 33-year-old has shown his value when it comes to pitching in October.
J.P. Ricciardi, the former Blue Jays general manager who first fielded offers for Halladay in ’09, said the payoff shouldn’t come as a surprise.
“To be honest, I really was surprised,” noted Ricciardi when asked if he was taken off guard by the fact no team gave up the kind of package the Blue Jays had originally asked for.
“I think a lot of it was that maybe we appreciated him a lot more because we saw him do this. Maybe pitching in Canada, he didn’t get as much attention. I’m really happy that people across the country are getting a chance to see what he’s all about. We kept sitting there saying, ‘This is Roy Freaking Halladay! Do people know?’ Not only will you have him for this year, but you’ll have him for next year. And whomever trades for him, he’s probably going to go to a place he’s going to want to stay. There’s no way we’re going to settle for one prospect, or 1 1/2 prospects. We’ve got to get a bunch of prospects because we’re dealing someone really, really special here.
“There’s a handful of guys like that in the game. [CC] Sabathia, Felix Hernandez, him. But in fairness to all those other guys, Doc has been doing it for a long time. We kept sitting there saying, ‘For us to move this guy we have to get something back that is really going to be worth it.’ And we still wouldn’t get back what we’re giving up.”
The Red Sox moved on from Halladay, instead choosing to hold on to their prospects and sign free agent pitcher John Lackey to a five-year, $82.5 million deal. At the Lackey press conference, Sox general manager Theo Epstein said the following:
‘We had interest in Halladay dating back to the trade deadline and early in the offseason. Well before [Halladay] was moved, it was clear he wasn’t going to be a factor for us based on the asking price, which is reasonable. I think [Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopolous] did a really good job. We weren’t prepared to pony up the prospects in addition to the salary that would have been required.
‘We’re in a pretty good spot now. If you look at what we’ve done, I do think we’ve improved the 2010 red sox. I think we’ve improved our long-term outlook. We’ve added draft picks, we hope to add more draft picks ‘ I think we probably will ‘ and we haven’t touched our prospect inventory at all. All of those different factors contribute to a healthy organization, what your team looks like next year, what it looks like in the future, what your commitments look like, what your draft-pick bounty in next draft, and how many prospects you’re able to retain, at least ones you believe in. In all of those areas, we feel like this is a pretty good solution for us.’
While it was Halladay’s first experience in the postseason, the fact that the righty turned in a stellar outing when it counted the most didn’t surprise Ricciardi as he watched the game with his two sons in their Worcester-area home.
Ricciardi’s confidence in how Halladay would perform on the big stage stemmed from what he did when pitching against the Red Sox and the Yankees in their home parks. Since 2004, the righty totaled a 3.86 ERA at Fenway Park, while notching a 3.08 ERA during that span in Yankee Stadium.
“He’s not going to be afraid, he’s not going to back off, he’s not going to be shy,” Ricciardi noted. “If you watch the game, he had great movement early in the game. When guys are fouling pitches off of him, you know his stuff is really good. He just had great stuff.
“He’s so prepared. I guaranteed there was nothing left uncovered going into the game. This isn’t a rookie going to the game. He’s a veteran player who has pitched in Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, a lot of big games. I’m not surprised at all. Obviously, I didn’t think he would go out and throw a no-hitter, but I’m not surprised he competed as well as he did.”
The image of Halladay, who needed just 104 pitches to finish off the Reds in Philadelphia’s 4-0 victory in Game of of their NLDS, also didn’t take Ricciardi off guard. The starter (who issued just one walk) showed little emotion until he secured the the final out.
“He doesn’t get too high, he doesn’t get too low. He stays within his plan. He’s not going to get rattled by the situation,” the current ESPN analyst said. “The clinching game, he wasn’t rattled by that. He pitched this game, he wasn’t rattled by that. I think the scary thing for me would be is now he has a taste of it, watch out, because he’s going to want the whole enchilada. It’s was a typical Doc day in terms of coming in and punching in. But to realize that he and Don Larsen are the only two guys to do this, that’s incredible.
“Any given night you wouldn’t be surprised if this guy did amazing things. But I think the most important thing for me, that will always will stick in my head with Doc, is how he competed when we faced the Yankees and the Red Sox. He didn’t give an inch on any of those games. I think that’s what made him a better pitcher, pitching against better competition.”
|10.06.10 at 7:48 pm ET|
PHILADELPHIA — Not bad for your first taste of postseason action ever.
“Just try and win,” Halladay said in just about as much of an understated manner as possible. “It was a lot of fun. It’s just one of those special things I think you’ll always remember. But the best part about it is the playoffs take priority, and that’s pretty neat for me to be able to go out and win a game like that and know there’s more to come for us and more to accomplish. So that makes it a lot of fun.”
The key to Halladay’s success over the year has been his pregame ritual of zoning in on the job at hand. And, in his first postseason start – that didn’t change on Wednesday night.
“It was pretty normal, really,” he said. “I think you try and disconnect yourself, I think, from the emotions a little bit. Knowing that you’ve prepared yourself, you’re ready, and you try to go out and execute your plan.
“I think once the game started, I got out there and I felt like I was able to do that. I wasn’t thinking about all that stuff, first playoffs or any of that. It was go out and try and execute a plan, and that made it a lot easier. But it’s been fun for me. It’s been a challenge that I look forward to. Excited, I guess, is a better word to describe it than nervous. I was excited. It was a lot of fun to look forward to pitching in this game.”
“I thought it was good,” said Halladay, who threw 104 pitches, including 79 strikes. “Any time you’re getting strikes I think it’s good. That’s something that I’ve never tried to concern myself a lot with. There’s going to be pitches you’re going to get, there’s going to be pitches you don’t get. I think if you let that bother you one way or the other, I think it can cause you problems.
I felt like really it was a pretty fair zone. From what I saw in between innings, they were calling the same pitches that I was getting. It’s one of those things that I think there’s always going to be certain cases where people aren’t happy with what’s called, but that’s part of the game. It’s always been part of the game.
The very, very good Doctor on this night needed just 2 hours, 34 minutes to record the second no-hitter in MLB postseason history and the first since Don Larsen‘s perfect game in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series.
In striking out eight and allowing only a two-out walk to Jay Bruce with the bases loaded in the fifth, Halladay – a trade target of the Red Sox leading up to the 2009 trade deadline – jumped from great to legendary with his 4-0 victory over the Cincinnati Reds at Citizens Bank Park.
The Blue Jays dangled Halladay as trade bait both at the 2009 trade deadline and again in the offseason. The Red Sox were among the many teams to express interest in the right-hander, but he ended up going to the Phillies in a three-team megadeal. Philadelphia received Halladay — whom it signed to a three-year, $60 million contract extension that includes a $20 million vesting option for a fourth season — and minor leaguers Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Gillies, Juan Ramirez and cash.
The Phillies gave up Cliff Lee along with minor league prospects Travis D’Arnaud, Kyle Drabek, and Michael Taylor.
On Wednesday night, it is safe to say that the Phillies felt no buyer’s remorse.
Halladay also came up with the game’s biggest hit, a two-out, RBI single in the second to make the score, 2-0. He was certainly taking care of business on Wednesday night.
Halladay needed just 104 pitches (79 strikes) to complete his historic feat. The longtime Blue Jays ace (and 2003 American League Cy Young Award winner) was making his first ever playoff start, after having never pitched in the playoffs during more than a decade in Toronto.
But this is hardly new territory for Halladay. Consider:
– Halladay threw a perfect game earlier this season when he retired all 27 Florida Marlins in South Florida on May 29. Halladay became the first pitcher since Nolan Ryan in 1973 to toss two no-hitters in the same calendar year.
– In Halladay’s second career start – against the Detroit Tigers on Sept. 27, 1998, he came within one out of tossing what would have been the third no-hitter ever pitched on the final day of a regular season.
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