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Bill Conlin: Phillies take 1-0 lead, as usual

THE PHILLIES draw first blood more often than the cast of "True Blood," HBO's paean to the involuntary transfusion. Children of the night, vot music they make, as Count Dracula used to say.

Fans celebrated after Roy Halladay no-hit the Phillies in Game 1 of the NLDS. (David M Warren/Staff Photographer)
Fans celebrated after Roy Halladay no-hit the Phillies in Game 1 of the NLDS. (David M Warren/Staff Photographer)Read more

THE PHILLIES draw first blood more often than the cast of "True Blood," HBO's paean to the involuntary transfusion.

Children of the night, vot music they make, as Count Dracula used to say.

At 7:42 on the night National League history was made, Reds leadoff hitter Brandon Phillips gave his team's last drop.

Roy Halladay had pitched his way into the rare air of baseball history.

No National League pitcher had ever thrown a postseason no-hitter. Until last night. And he came one mislocated pitch from his second perfect game of 2010.

Yankees righthander Don Larsen, a journeyman, had stood atop the no-hit pedestal for 54 years, his perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1956 World Series standing alone through all the postseasons dating to 1903.

And Halladay did it with the first-blood intensity that has marked the Charlie Manuel Phillies since the NLDS against the Milwaukee Brewers in 2008.

Since then, the Phillies have won the first game of seven straight series in what has become an October marathon. The Brewers, Dodgers, Rays, Rockies, Dodgers and Yankees all went 0-1. Only the Yankees rallied, coming back with a vengeance to win the World Series in six games.

Halladay went for the jugular with an efficiency that amped The Bank crowd of 46,411 into a frenzied crescendo that rose inning by inning, strike by strike, out by out, into a tsunami of sound that even penetrated the sanctum of concentration where the great righthander dwells, alone with his game plan.

He faced 28 Cincinnati Reds batters. And a remarkable 25 of the 28 first pitches to them were strikes.

That wasn't a statement by Roy Halladay in Game 1 of the NLDS. It was a royal decree that seemed to order, "Off with their bats."

The final score of 4-0 and the modest first- and second-inning offense that produced all the runs and sent starter Edinson Volquez to an early shower became overshadowed as Halladay rolled through the Reds' No. 1-ranked NL offense like a threshing machine through a wheat field.

The only ball struck with authority by Dusty Baker's lineup was a sinking liner to right by reliever Travis Wood.

Yeah, that Travis Wood. The rookie lefthander who took a perfect game into the ninth inning of an epic scoreless battle against Halladay here in the third game of a Phillies' four-game sweep before the All-Star break.

Carlos Ruiz, who called another brilliant game for Halladay, blending Doc's four pitches like a French chef turning out a four-course meal, broke up Wood's no-hitter with a leadoff double. Jimmy Rollins scored Chooch with two outs in the 11th with a walkoff single.

Reds manager Dusty Baker will have some explaining to do in the arena of 20-20 hindsight. Volquez is just over a year removed from Tommy John surgery and took a pedestrian 4-3 record and 4.31 ERA into what could be the pivotal game of the best-of-five crapshoot. The Volquez who was 2-0 against the Phillies with an 0.73 ERA was the presurgery righthander who at his best was close to unhittable. That pitcher did not show up last night.

Naturally, the reliever who replaced him in the second after Halladay singled home a run and Shane Victorino singled home two more in the second was Wood. The lefthander buried the Phils once more, allowing a harmless hit in 3 1/3 lockdown innings. What if he had been paired with Halladay once more in one of those first-to-blink classics? We will never know.

Chase Utley and Victorino, who combined to score the first run last night, were the heroes in the 2008 NLDS that began the Phillies' run of postseason series successes. Utley's two-run double was the big blow in Game 1, and nobody will forget Victorino's Game 2 grand slam off CC Sabathia, set up by Brett Myers' epic 14-pitch at-bat that frenzied the crowd, a foreshadowing of the routine hysteria that has gripped the sold-out Bank in every October game since.

The centerfielder began last night's epic with a one-out double, brazenly stole third against Volquez' sluggish move to the plate and scored on a sacrifice fly by Utley, narrowly beating a howitzer throw by rightfielder Jay Bruce.

With the modest rites of

offense out of the way, all eyes turned to Halladay. He was hard not to watch, even for Baker, who has been on both sides of no-hitters as player and manager.

"The thing about it was," Baker said, "I don't think he threw anything down the heart of the plate, everything was on the corners and moving. I don't know what his percentage was, but it looked like he threw 90 percent for first-pitch strikes. Any time you do that with the stuff he has, then he can go to work on you

after that."

That wasn't work, it was surgery with a blunt knife, the kind of cadaver-slicing that takes the heart out of a team that now must face a well-rested Roy

Oswalt tomorrow night. Charlie Manuel related how things got very quiet in the dugout around the sixth inning, "kind of like Florida." How Halladay just sat there quiet, "then went back out there."

"Pretty neat, really . . . Great managing . . . "

With Doc needing just three more outs for the no-no, I headed for the restroom with two outs in the bottom of the eighth. Chris Wheeler was in there

hyperventilating. "Nervous?" I asked. "That's why I'm in here."

Leaving, I almost collided with Phillies president David Montgomery. On his way in.


"That's why I'm in here," he said.

The jitters were unfounded. Roy Halladay drained the last few drops of blood from the Reds, finishing with a 1-2-3 flourish what was last done to Cincinnati on June 23, 1971, by Rick Wise in a Riverfront Stadium no-hitter enlivened by the righthander's two home runs.

I was there for that one, too . . .

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