Nothing brings strangers together quite like a postseason no-hitter.
Today is as good a day as any to throw aside my mantle of impartiality and expose myself as a Phillies fan. I grew up and lived all of my pre-college years in New Jersey, about 20 minutes from the Vet and Citizens Bank Park. My parents have had season tickets since sometime in the ’80s and full season tickets for the last 12 years or so. They were even the Phillies’ Season Ticket Holders of the Month in September. But enough of that, it’s merely background.
Today I made the pilgrimage north from my current home in Arlington, Va., to watch Roy Halladay toy with the Reds. As early as the first inning I started to get that feeling that I might see a much vaunted and exceedingly rare postseason perfect game (so close…). Typically it takes five or so innings before that feeling sets in. But then again, Roy Halladay isn’t typical.
Being there was nothing short of amazing. Even now I’m struggling to find words to describe what happened. I thought the fans were a tad complacent in the early going with only Scott Rolen drawing serious boos when the lineups were announced. Things quickly heated up as Halladay set down the Reds in order. In the bottom of the first frame Shane Victorino doubled, stole third and scored on a Chase Utley sac fly. Reds starter Edinson Volquez showed some wildness in the first frame but looked like he had a chance of settling. The Phillies snubbed that idea in the second by plating three more, one off the bat of Sir Halladay himself. Just like that Travis Wood was on to prevent a rough start from turning into a route.
But as we know now, it was already over. Inevitability had set in. With every first pitch strike the fans cheered a little louder. With every out recorded they celebrated a little more flamboyantly. In the seventh, a strange older man in a full suit who was sitting two rows in front of me began letting others rub his sleeves for good luck. There was a very high correlation between sleeve-rubbing and strikes.
In the eighth inning the fans forgot that they had paid for seats and remained standing. With two outs in the ninth, disaster almost struck: Brandon Phillips‘ swinging bunt ran up against his bat. Chooch—Carlos Ruiz—flopped down awkwardly after it, gingerly plucked the ball away from the bat, and whipped a dangerous throw from his knees to get Phillips. The crowd erupted as if the Phillies had won the World Series. Honestly, this game was much more special for me than the two day, rain soaked clincher in ’08, but I’m sure being there had something to do with it.
As the elation died down and the players finished their romp around the mound, I took a look around. I saw nary a fan moving towards the aisles. All 46,211 in attendance were on their feet saluting the magic they had just witnessed. It was a good night.