MIAMI – A perfect game was no reason for Roy Halladay to change his routine.
He woke up early Sunday for a workout. He beat his Philadelphia Phillies teammates to the ballpark. He spent time thinking about how to improve in his next start.
And somewhere in there, he might have taken a few moments to reflect on making history.
Not even 12 hours after throwing the 20th perfect game in the major leagues, the Phillies’ ace right-hander was back at the ballpark, sticking to his storied workout regimen — seeing no reason to take any time off for basking in Saturday night’s gem against the Florida Marlins.
“Journey’s always better than the destination,” Halladay said.
Oh, there was nothing wrong with this particular destination.
Halladay struck out 11 on his perfect night, working out of seven counts of 3-1 or 3-2, and getting a break or two when he needed. Halladay acknowledged Sunday that he thought the chase was over when pinch-hitter Mike Lamb led off the ninth inning with a deep fly to centre.
Shane Victorino had plenty of room, making the catch with his heels on the warning track.
“Hit that ball pretty good,” Halladay said. “Probably was close to going out in 95 per cent of the parks. It’s one of those things where, right place, right time, I guess.”
Right place, right time, for sure. Two batters later, it was over.
The Phillies gave him the ball that Ryan Howard squeezed for the final out, and when it was recorded, only then did Halladay (7-3) allow himself to celebrate.
He smiled. He hugged catcher Carlos Ruiz, who he credited for quarterbacking the gem. And he high-fived a bunch of guys.
Ordinary stuff for most people, although for Halladay, such signs of emotion may have as well been considered a wild party.
“He definitely smiles. It’s not like the first time he’s ever smiled,” Phillies closer Brad Lidge said. “That being said, that kind of joy, it’s fun to see on someone’s face. And I think we all thought at some point this year, it’s going to happen. It might happen again. Every time he goes out there, stuff’s so good it seems like he could do that.”
In the other clubhouse, the Marlins still weren’t smiling.
Years from now, Florida manger Fredi Gonzalez said, will be the time to appreciate having a front-row seat for history. For now, though, it goes down as just another loss for the Marlins — some of whom lamented Halladay getting the benefit of borderline calls.
“It’s unreal how he just goes about his business,” marvelled Josh Johnson, the losing pitcher Saturday after giving up one unearned run. “It’s all business, know what I mean? No messing around, no joking around. He’s there for one reason. He’s there to finish the game, pretty much, which is very impressive to watch.”
It was the second perfect game in the majors in May, Dallas Braden doing it for Oakland against Tampa Bay a mere 20 days earlier. It’s the first time in the modern era that there were a pair of perfectos in the same season, and already the third no-hit effort of 2010, with Colorado’s Ubaldo Jimenez throwing a no-hitter in April.
“Roy was obviously good, but you have to be more than good to have a night like that,” the Phillies’ Chase Utley said. “He had a little luck on his side. It was pretty surreal.”
Keeping with baseball tradition, the Phillies stayed away from Halladay in the dugout as the game went along and the pursuit of history went deeper.
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro did his part on the karma front, too.
He changed seats after the first two innings, sitting with his half-brother, also named Ruben. When he realized after four innings that Halladay still hadn’t allowed a baserunner, the man who landed Halladay from Toronto during the off-season knew he couldn’t take any chances.
“I decided not to move out of my seat,” Amaro said.
“Other than winning the World Series in ’08, other than that last pitch Lidge threw that year, this is the most amazing moment I’ve ever seen in the game of baseball, for me,” he added.
Halladay arrived at the stadium around 8:45 a.m. Sunday, having slept only a few hours. His phone was filled with messages from well-wishers — even vice-president Joe Biden called Saturday night — and the Phillies tucked his cap and jersey away for safekeeping.
On the field, the mound had already been rebuilt, after workers tore much of it up the night before to give Halladay the pitching rubber.
When the rest of the Philadelphia pitchers headed out to the field for stretching and light tossing a little past 11 a.m., there was Halladay, working like nothing special had happened.
“He gets to the park early and he’s already sweated and showered before we get to the field,” Utley said. “There’s a reason for his success.”
Halladay didn’t have any plans for the ball he used to record the 27th out, other than saying his boys will want it as a keepsake.
“I’m not huge on a lot of the memorabilia,” Halladay said. “I think the memories sometimes last longer than the collection of stuff.”