Roy Halladay has no illusions. The Phillies' right-hander understands that his second-ever start in a National League division series isn't likely to top his first. That doesn't mean he isn't confident, but it's tough to trump pitching a no-hitter.
That's what Halladay did to kick of last year's NLDS by throwing a no-hitter in the Phillies' opening 4-0 victory over the visiting Cincinnati Reds. He makes his second NLDS start on Saturday, facing Kyle Lohse in the opening NLDS game at Citizens Bank Park.
The only blemish for Halladay in last year's no-hitter was a fifth-inning walk to Jay Bruce. Halladay struck out eight and set the tone for the Phillies three-game sweep of the Reds.
"The thing that stood out most was once the game started how normal it was," Halladay said in a press conference Friday at Citizens Bank Park. "It wasn't this great big animal everybody talks about. I was comfortable and it was a normal game."
Maybe normal by only his high standards.
"Getting to the playoffs was the thing I was looking forward to for so long," he said. "And when you are playing, it's a regular game. It's what you've been doing since you were a kid. That's something that stuck out to me, that it was very comforting."
Not so for the Reds hitters. And, of course, the Cardinals will also have their work cut out.
This season Halladay was 19-6 with a 2.35 ERA in 232 2/3 innings. He recorded 220 strikeouts and walked just 35. In his two seasons with the Phillies he is 40-16 with a 2.40 ERA.
Halladay is 2-1 with a 2.10 ERA in four career starts against the Cardinals.
Even though the Cardinals didn't clinch the wild-card berth until the final frantic day of the regular season, Halladay has plenty of respect for his first round opponent.
"They are as dangerous as any other team in the playoffs," he said. "I think you get to this point and every team is good."
Halladay says there is a balance in that respect.
"I heard a quote a long time ago: 'I came here to bury Caesar, not to praise him.' I think it's true," Halladay said. "We are all aware of how good the team is. We obviously have a respect for what they've done and how they've played, but you have to be confident going in that you're going to be able to beat them. You have to be confident the guys around you feel the same way."
And he says he doesn't feel what occurred in the regular season has much bearing now. The Phillies were just 3-6 this season against the Cardinals.
Halladay understands the high expectations that come with pitching for the Phillies team where anything short of a World Series title would be considered disappointing in many quarters.
"We feel like we have all the parts that we need to go all the way," he said. "And I think to a man in that clubhouse, there's not a guy who would tell you that he would not be disappointed if we didn't win it all."
So Halladay says there isn't a lot of extra pressure.
"I think everybody expects of us what we expect of ourselves," he said. "You know, if it doesn't happen, I'm sure there would be disappointment, but we don't look at that side of it right now."