This article was written by Alan Cohen
“Steps back up onto the mound, tucks the ball in his right hand. Now into the glove. Holds it in front of the letters. Nods yes. The wind; the one-two pitch. Swing, and a groundball to the left side. Castro’s got it. Spins, throws. He got him! A perfect game for Roy Halladay! 27 up and 27 down! Halladay is mobbed at the mound as the Phillies celebrate perfection tonight in Miami!” — Phillies radio play-by-play broadcaster Scott Franzke1
“Early in my bullpen (pregame warmup), I was hitting spots more than I have been. I felt I just carried that out there.” — Roy “Doc” Halladay after pitching the 20th major-league perfect game2
Before a Saturday night crowd of 25,086 in Miami (many of whom were Phillies fans, and others lured by a postgame concert and fireworks show), Roy Halladay, in his first season with the Phillies, was going for his seventh win of the season. The Phillies had not been scoring of late. The Mets had shut them out in three consecutive games and Philadelphia came into the game having lost five of their previous six games, four by shutout. Their National League lead had shrunk to 1½ games. And Halladay was coming off his worst start of the season. On Sunday, May 23, he had lasted only 5⅔ innings against the Boston Red Sox, yielding seven runs (six earned) in an 8-3 loss. When he was removed from the game, Doc approached manager Charlie Manuel in the dugout and told him, “I’m better than that.”3
The Marlins’ pitcher, Josh Johnson (5-1), was up to the task. The 26-year-old was coming off a 15-5 season in which he had been selected to the All-Star team for the first time. He had won his prior two starts and had not been scored on in 18 innings coming into the game, seeing his ERA shrink from 3.35 to 2.43. The two pitchers matched up well not only in ability, but in size. Halladay was big at 6-feet-6 and 230 pounds; Johnson was even bigger at 6-feet-7 and 250 pounds.
In filling out his lineup card for the game Phillies manager Manuel had some decisions to make regarding the left side of his infield. Shortstop Jimmy Rollins and third baseman Placido Polanco were injured. The replacements he chose, Wilson Valdez and Juan Castro, became major factors in preserving the perfect game.
Over the first two innings, Johnson pitched out of jams as Halladay retired the first six batters, with four strikeouts and two groundballs. It wasn’t that easy: Two of the batters in the first inning thought they had worked out walks only to have home-plate umpire Mike DiMuro bring them back to the batter’s box. The leadoff batter, Chris Coghlan, looked at a 3-and-2 pitch, and the third batter in the inning, Hanley Ramirez, looked at a 3-and-1 pitch for strike two before grounding out.
In the third inning the Marlins’ defense allowed the only run Halladay would need. With one out, Valdez, who had doubled in the first inning, singled to center field. Chase Utley then lined a ball to deep center field that was misplayed by the Marlins’ Cameron Maybin. Maybin misjudged the ball and started charging in. He reversed direction, but was unable to complete the play. The ball went off Maybin’s glove for a three-base error and the score was 1-0.4 Afterward, Maybin said, “J.J. (Johnson) did a great job of competing. Unfortunately, one play — that was the ballgame.”5
Halladay continued to have 3-and-1 and 3-and-2 counts against batters (seven during the course of the game) and still retired each man he faced. In the sixth inning, with one out, Maybin hit a roller to the right of shortstop Valdez. Going into the hole, Valdez grabbed the ball and threw to first just in time to get the out. Two innings later, Florida’s Jorge Cantu banged a low liner toward third base. Castro went to his knees, short-hopped the ball, and threw to first.
Johnson came out of the game after pitching seven innings and throwing 121 pitches. He stuck out six batters and walked only one while allowing six hits. Relievers Clay Hensley and Juan Carlos Oviedo each pitched perfect innings, setting the stage for Halladay to emerge from the visitors’ dugout for the bottom of the ninth.
“Once you think it’s possible is probably two outs in the ninth. Up to that point you obviously are aware of it, but it’s never something you think is possible. Really, once I got to two outs it felt like I had a chance. It’s not something you expect” — Roy Halladay 6
The Marlins’ last swings were taken by three pinch-hitters. Mike Lamb’s long fly ball to center field dropped into the glove of Shane Victorino at the edge of the warning track; Wes Helms struck out looking; and on a 1-and-2 count Ronny Paulino grounded to Castro. Ranging to his left, Castro grabbed the ball, spun around and threw a perfect strike to the waiting glove of Ryan Howard for the final out. The game was over in 2:13, with Halladay having thrown 115 pitches, 72 of which were strikes, to complete his masterpiece.
In the Marlins clubhouse after the game, there was some griping about the umpire’s calls but Halladay’s mastery was acknowledged by Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez. “You’ve got to take your hat off to Doc,” Gonzalez said. “That’s why he is who he is. That’s what (the Phillies) got him for.”7
Johnson was the hard-luck loser. He would go on to post an 11-6 record in 2010 with a league-leading 2.30 ERA. He was named to his second All-Star team, but would be unable, due to injury, to replicate his success in future seasons. His last big-league season was 2013.
After the game, Halladay hastened to share the credit with his catcher, Carlos Ruiz. “We felt like we got in a groove early and about the fifth or sixth, I was just following Chooch. I can’t say enough about the job he did today. Mixed pitches. For me, it was really a no-brainer.”8 Ruiz said, “His tempo was real good, so I was feeling great because whatever I put down, he was going to throw it. He would hit the spot. He was painting everything. He hit the corners.”9
Marlins owner Jeffrey Luria went so far as to offer to give Halladay the pitching rubber as a memento. There was one minor issue. The field had been darkened for the fireworks show. That did not stop the Marlins grounds crew. With the fireworks exploding and the music playing, workers dug out the rubber in the darkness and made the presentation to Halladay.10
The perfect game was the second thrown in the major leagues in 2010. Twenty days earlier, in Oakland, Dallas Braden of the A’s had hurled a perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays.
It was not the first time Halladay had flirted with a no-hitter. In his second career start, in 1998, he had taken a no-hitter into the ninth inning against the Tigers only to see it foiled by Bobby Higginson’s pinch-hit homer with two outs in the final inning. He had also hurled a one-hitter against the Yankees in 2009. The next time Halladay pursued a no-hitter would be in his first postseason appearance, four months down the road. When he no-hit Cincinnati in the first game of the National League Divisional Series, he joined Don Larsen, as the only two pitchers to hurl no-hitters in postseason play.
Catcher Carlos Ruiz went on to catch three more no-hitters during his time with the Phillies. The four no-hitters tied him with Jason Varitek for the major-league record.
Halladay would pitch to a 21-10 record in 2010 and win the National League Cy Young Award. He had previously been accorded the same honor, in 2003, in the American League while pitching for Toronto. He had one more season of success in 2011, when he would join the small group of pitchers who started All-Star Games in each league. He retired at the end of the 2013 season with 203 career wins.
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author used Baseball-Reference.com and:
Kepner, Tyler. “20 Days Later, It’s Halladay’s Turn at Perfection,” New York Times, May 30, 2010: SP3.
Box scores for the game can be found here:
1 Matt Geib, “Tales of Roy Halliday’s Perfect Game,” Philadelphia Inquirer, May 31, 2010.
2 Tim Reynolds, “Phillies’ Halladay Throws Perfect Game,” Associated Press, May 29, 2010.
3 Matt Geib.
4 Joe Capozzi, “A Perfect Halladay,” Palm Beach Post, May 30, 2010: 1C.
5 Tim Reynolds.
6 Juan C. Rodriguez, “Halladay Perfect,” Orlando Sentinel, May 30, 2010: C8.
7 Tim Reynolds.
9 Matt Geib.
10 Clark Spencer, “Phillies 1, Marlins 0: Phillies Roy Halladay Throws Perfect Game Against Florida Marlins,” Miami Herald, May 30, 2010.