10/15/10 7:57 PM ET
Hype, expectations don't faze Halladay
By Todd Zolecki / MLB.com
It is an all-time performance.
"Wanting to go out for that extra inning, not to be outdone, that's pretty impressive," Halladay said Friday.
Halladay, who was 14 when Morris helped the Twins beat the Braves in that unforgettable Game 7, had his legendary moment in Game 1 of the National League Division Series on Oct. 6, when he no-hit the Reds in his first postseason start. Halladay makes his second postseason start Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET, FOX) in Game 1 of the NL Championship Series against the Giants at Citizens Bank Park, and he hopes there are more memorable moments ahead.
"You never know when those games are going to happen," he said. "And that's the beauty of it."
Halladay faces Giants ace Tim Lincecum in one of the most highly anticipated postseason pitching matchups in memory.
The hype has not fazed Halladay.
The superhuman expectations have not bothered him, either.
"You don't feel like there's a certain standard to have to live up to. I feel like I need to go out and pitch the way that I normally pitch, execute pitches and be aggressive."
This is cake for Halladay. He made his big-league debut in 1998 with the Jays. He went 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA in two starts that year, and 8-7 with a 3.92 ERA in 36 appearances (18 starts) in 1999. But everything fell apart in 2000, when he went 4-7 with a 10.64 ERA in 19 appearances (13 starts). His 10.64 ERA is the highest in baseball history for a pitcher with 13 or more starts in a season.
Halladay returned to the Minor Leagues because he could not continue in the Majors. He had to rebuild himself, and it would not be easy after getting crushed over and over and over again by big league hitters.
But he committed himself to saving his career. He got a copy of "The Mental ABC's of Pitching," which improved his mental outlook to pitching. Of course, he still had to pitch. He still had to perform. But Toronto pitching instructor Mel Queen helped make it happen. He looked at Halladay, lowered his release point and quickened his delivery, and just like that, Halladay was back.
But Halladay wanted to stay there, too. He developed a renowned work ethic, which has him at the ballpark at 5:30 a.m. during Spring Training and as early as 10 a.m. for a 7 p.m. game during the season.
Halladay became one of the best pitchers in baseball again, but he never made the postseason with the Jays. Realizing time was running out, he waived his no-trade clause in December to join the Phillies.
So while he remains focused, he has allowed himself to soak in the experience.
"The champagne is colder," he said, asked if anything has surprised him about the postseason. "But it's been as much fun, if not more fun, than I anticipated. Going in, you kind of wonder what it would be like, how it would feel. And really it's been more of an exciting challenge for me. It's more of an exciting anticipation, and that's one part I didn't expect."
He intends to keep the good times going Saturday against a team that hit him earlier this season. Halladay allowed 10 hits and five runs in seven innings against the Giants on April 26 at AT&T Park. Halladay promised afterward to learn from it.
He has learned from his mistakes in the past. The last five times he allowed five or more earned runs against a team and faced that team again the same year, he watched his ERA drop from 7.15 to 3.32.
Teams can get Halladay once, but it's tough to get him again.
Just ask the Reds.
He allowed 13 hits and four runs in eight innings against them June 30 at Great American Ball Park. He allowed five hits in a shutout against them at Citizens Bank Park before throwing a no-hitter against them Oct. 6.
"He's always motivated," Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee said. "I think what happens is ... look at what he's done against the National League East. His outings are good early, but I think the more he gets to see an opponent, the more he's on the mound and sees what direction the hitters are going in, the more he knows how to capitalize. His instincts are very, very good on where to go with certain pitches. I think the more he sees an opponent, the more knowledge he has, the tougher he gets."
Shortstop Jimmy Rollins, like many of his teammates, expects Halladay to look much better than he did April 26.
"He wasn't on that day," Rollins said. "You could see that he wasn't the Halladay we had seen the start before that. You can toss that out. It's the playoffs, and guys are going to be locking in a little bit more."
Halladay has been locked in. His last two starts have been the most important of his career. He allowed two hits in a shutout against the Nationals on Sept. 27, when the Phillies clinched their fourth consecutive NL East title. He followed that with a no-hitter in his first postseason start.
That's two hits, one walk and 14 strikeouts in 18 scoreless innings.
He hopes it's just the beginning.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.