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CBSSports.com Senior Writer

Halladay's dominance makes no-hitter seem like no-brainer


PHILADELPHIA -- There's a line Rich Dubee uses about Roy Halladay.

He uses it a lot, but today it seems more appropriate than ever.

"The only time I'd worry about Roy Halladay," the Phillies pitching coach likes to say, "is if he was stuck in traffic."

Funny line, and the best part of it is you can't imagine Roy Halladay ever getting stuck in traffic. You can't imagine Roy Halladay ever being that unprepared, leaving that much to chance.

No, what you imagine Roy Halladay doing is exactly what he did Wednesday afternoon.

You imagine him, in a start he'd been pointing to for only his entire life, going out and pitching maybe the best game he'd ever pitched, maybe one of the best games anyone had ever pitched. You imagine him being so good that not only does no one get a hit, but you don't even have the slightest expectation that anyone is going to get a hit.

A no-hitter in his first postseason start, only the second no-hitter ever thrown in a postseason game, against the team that scored more runs than anyone else in the National League?

Yeah, you imagine that.

"It seems like this guy is just in control of his destiny," Phillies closer Brad Lidge said.

If you watched Wednesday, in Halladay's 4-0 win over the Reds, you saw the best pitcher in baseball, at his best. Halladay will get compared to Don Larsen, for sure, but the difference is that Larsen was only the best for that one magical afternoon in the 1956 World Series.

Halladay has been the best for a few years now.

For all the talk about the Phillies' Big 3 starters, they all know that it's the one best pitcher in the game and two other great ones. For all the talk about Halladay's slightly sub-par September (his 3.44 ERA for the month ranked 53rd among major-league starters, and fourth in his own rotation), there really wasn't any doubt that he was going to start Game 1.

There really wasn't any doubt he'd be ready for it.

"The marathon is over," Dubee said. "The 11 years of working and grinding is over. Now it's time to enjoy it, cherish it."

We know the story. We know that Halladay enjoyed pitching for the Blue Jays, but realized that time was running out to get to October. We know that the Phillies were the team he wanted to go to, that they dealt for him last December and controversially traded 2009 postseason ace Cliff Lee away.

We know about the talent, the preparation and the work ethic so legendary that Dubee could say with certainty that Halladay will be the first Phillies player at the ballpark for Thursday's off-day workout.

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Halladay won 21 games for the Phillies. He threw a perfect game against the Marlins. And yet, on the night he became a 20-game winner, the one time his eyes really lit up was when someone mentioned the postseason.

Yeah, he was going to be ready for it.

Sure enough, the night the Phillies clinched the division title against the Nationals, they saw Halladay start to look a little more like himself, a little "crisper," as bullpen coach Mick Billmeyer put it.

Next came Halladay's side session last Friday in Atlanta, which Billmeyer caught. The report was that Halladay was a little better still.

And when Halladay warmed up in the bullpen Wednesday afternoon, the report was even better.

"I talked to Mick and he was like, 'Oh my God,'" catcher Carlos Ruiz said.

The result was a performance that the Phillies agreed was more dominating than Halladay's perfect game. The result was a game so overwhelming that Dubee said Halladay had complete command of all four of his pitches, and never lost that touch for nine innings.

The result was an effort so close to perfect that basically all the Reds could do was compliment it.

"It's not fun being up there trying to hit nothing," said Joey Votto, the likely NL Most Valuable Player.

Plenty of major-league hitters know the feeling. If you ever get a chance to ask any of them about pitchers they've faced, be sure to ask about Halladay.

"He's the best pitcher in baseball," said Jay Bruce, whose two-out, fifth-inning walk gave the Reds their only baserunner. "And he pitched one of the best games of his life."

There's been a sense of inevitability developing about these Phillies, and what happened Wednesday obviously did nothing to change that. Even the Reds, who pride themselves on responding to adversity -- remember the run after they were swept in that early-August series with the Cardinals -- had to admit that getting no-hit in your first playoff game is a little different.

"No-hit in the first game of the playoffs and come back? Yeah, we've been there before," Votto said sarcastically.

He went on to say that the Reds don't consider themselves at all done in this best-of-5 series, that they understand that they'll face Halladay again if they get to Game 4 and that they don't plan to "back down."

And, they had to be thinking, there's no way that Halladay can be as great the next time as he was Wednesday.

He can't be, right? The Phillies aren't so sure.

"We still have a ways to go," Lidge said. "Who knows what's next for this guy?"

We don't know what's next, but as hard as Roy Halladay works and as much as he prepares, maybe he does know.

As for the rest of us, we can only imagine.


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