PHILADELPHIA — Roy Halladay spent his whole career waiting for this start, wondering what it would be like to pitch in the playoffs.
It was better than he — or anyone else — could have predicted.
Halladay threw the second no-hitter in postseason history, leading the Philadelphia Phillies over the Cincinnati Reds 4-0 in Game 1 of the National League Divisional Series on Wednesday.
“It’s surreal, it really is,” Halladay said. “I just wanted to pitch here, to pitch in the postseason. To go out and have a game like that, it’s a dream come true.”
Don Larsen is the only other pitcher to throw a postseason no-hitter. He tossed a perfect game for the New York Yankees in the 1956 World Series against Brooklyn. The 54th anniversary of Larsen’s gem is Friday.
Halladay took the Year of the Pitcher into October. The excitement spread beyond Citizens Bank Park — the last two outs were shown on the video board at Target Field, where the Twins were preparing to play the Yankees, and Minnesota fans cheered.
The All-Star right-hander, who threw a perfect game at Florida on May 29, dominated the Reds with a sharp fastball and a devastating slow curve in his first playoff start.
The overmatched Reds never came close to a hit. Halladay allowed only one runner, walking Jay Bruce on a full count with two outs in the fifth, and struck out eight.
“To get a no-hitter in this fashion, in your first postseason game, you’ve got to put it right up there,” Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard said.
Halladay threw 104 pitches, 79 for strikes. This was the first no-hitter against the Reds since 1971, when Philadelphia’s Rick Wise beat them by the same 4-0 score.
“It’s no fun out there,” Reds slugger Joey Votto said. “It’s like trying to hit nothing. He’s an ace among aces.”
Halladay spent 12 seasons with Toronto, far from the postseason. A trade last December brought him to the defending two-time NL champions and gave him this chance.
“This is what you come here for,” Halladay said. “It’s a good team, they know how to win. ... It’s been a great year, a fun year, we obviously have a ways to go.”
With a sellout crowd standing in the ninth and chanting “Let’s Go, Doc!” Halladay got a loud ovation when he jogged to the mound to start the inning.
Ramon Hernandez popped out to second baseman Chase Utley for the first out. Pinch-hitter Miguel Cairo then fouled out to third baseman Wilson Valdez.
Halladay then retired Brandon Phillips on a tapper in front of the plate to end it. Catcher Carlos Ruiz pounced on the ball, getting down on his knee as the ball rolled near Phillips’ bat, and made a strong throw for the final out.
“If I was catching, I probably would’ve picked up the ball and bat and threw them both,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.
“I felt like we got in a groove early,” Halladay said. “Carlos has been great all year, he helps me get into a rhythm early, throwing strikes.”
Phillies aces Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels ran out of the dugout side-by-side to congratulate the other member of Philadelphia’s Big 3. Pretty soon, everyone in a Phillies uniform was part of the victory party.
Shortstop Jimmy Rollins made the toughest play to preserve the no-hitter, going deep in the hole and making a strong throw to retire Votto in the fourth.
Pitcher Travis Wood hit a sinking liner to right that Jayson Werth caught in the third. Pinch-hitter Juan Francisco hit a hard grounder up the middle in the sixth, but Rollins scooted over and made it look easy.
There were five no-hitters in the majors this year as pitchers dominated. But five no-hit bids got broken up in the ninth inning, too.
Halladay became the fifth pitcher to throw two no-hitters in the same year. He joined Nolan Ryan (1973), Virgil Trucks (1952), Allie Reynolds (1951) and Johnny Vander Meer (1938).
The last time a pitcher came close to a no-hitter in the postseason was quite a while ago. Boston’s Jim Lonborg went 72⁄3 innings against St. Louis in the 1967 World Series before Julian Javier broke up it with a double, STATS LLC said.