Jul 102010

July 10 Philadelphia Inquirer

Even Roy Halladay could admit it. He rarely talks of focusing on anything besides his next pitch. That’s how he taught himself to win. Forget about everything else.

But he was locked in a scoreless game with Cincinnati’s Travis Wood – who was working on a perfect game.

“It’s obviously a close game,” Halladay said. “You want to keep it that way and put as much pressure on him as you can. It’s a lot harder going in 0-0 than if you have a lead.”

He kept the pressure on. And the Phillies, who came within three outs of not putting a runner on base in nine innings, somehow won their third straight extra-inning game, 1-0.

Afterward, Charlie Manuel took his seat for a postgame news conference and let out a deep sigh.

“Phew,” he said.

That about sums it up.

Before Jimmy Rollins delivered the game-winning single in the 11th, the two starting pitchers were amazing. They matched zeros through nine innings before departing.

Wood was the first pitcher to earn a no-decision after throwing a nine-inning one-hitter since Ben Sheets did it on June 8, 2004.

Wood, 23, was making just his third major-league start. The former second-round pick spent the majority of the first half in triple-A Louisville, where he was selected to the triple-A All-Star Game. It’s safe to say he will not be attending. Wood’s ERA through three starts is 2.18.

There was not one challenging play in Wood’s first 24 outs. The hardest-hit ball was a line drive by Shane Victorino right at third base that Miguel Cairo snagged in the fourth inning. He ran only three three-ball counts through eight innings.

Carlos Ruiz, playing in his first game after missing 20 with a concussion, doubled to lead off the ninth, breaking Wood’s streak of 24 straight batters retired.

“I was thinking, get a good pitch to hit,” Ruiz said. “I know he was throwing a lot of fastballs. He was behind 2-0 and 2-1. ‘OK, here we go. Get ready for a fastball.’ And he threw me one right down the middle.”

As the sellout crowd at Citizens Bank Park celebrated, the Reds’ infield gathered and Cincinnati pitching coach Bryan Price came to calm Wood. The Reds had relievers warming up at the start of the ninth, but Dusty Baker chose to keep Wood in the game.

It worked. The Phillies wasted a golden chance to score.

Instead of leaving Juan Castro in to bunt, Manuel had Wilson Valdez pinch-hit to do the same task. Valdez took the first pitch, a fastball for a strike. On the second pitch, he popped up a bunt to Cairo at third.

It was costly. Raul Ibanez pinch-hit for Halladay and hit a deep fly ball that was caught in center. Ruiz moved up to third. Jimmy Rollins battled Wood for seven pitches before hitting a pop-up foul toward the Phillies’ dugout. Cincinnati first baseman Joey Votto reached over the ledge and a TV camera to catch the ball.

That meant the pitchers’ duel would be decided by the bullpens.

Halladay, once again, was simply masterful.

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