Is Anyone Really Surprised? (October 7, 2010)

Dr. No, welcome to Doc-tober, Doc of ages, Doc seeing red, it’s a Halladay so celebrate, etc. etc. etc. The list of Doc-isms is never-ending, and there is little doubt that he has earned the nickname, especially considering his postseason debut. The guy is simply amazing. Anytime he touches the mound most fans are preparing to be wowed and prepping themselves for another perfect act. His most recent pitching performance, no-hitting the Cincinnati Reds in game 1 last night, was spectacular, especially when you consider that the Reds led the national league in batting average, .272, a full 12 points above the Phillies, and were first in home runs with 188. Cincinnati has quickly realized that the playoffs are a different animal than the regular season and performing well requires an extra level of concentration that they are not accustomed to. Yet, they are faced with the task of a five game series against a three headed pitching monster supported by a team that knows what it’s like to play October and November baseball, and play it well.

The last time the Reds were in the playoffs, 1995, the Montreal Expos were still a franchise, the Tampa Bay Rays were not, the Boston Red Sox still had the curse of the Babe, and the Chicago Cubs still had the curse of the Billy goat…well that one actually still exists, but you get the point, it’s been a while. There had to be a good deal of nerves circling the dugout before game time, and as they continued to stare at strikes by Halladay the nerves were sure to build and build. Not to take anything away from the stellar outing by the obvious NL Cy Young choice, lets remember that it was game 1 of the NLDS. A feat that is unmatched by all but one man, but also not as impressive as Don Larsen’s Game 5 perfect game in the 1956 World Series. To compare the two isn’t really fair to Larsen. The old saying for major league baseball was that legends are made in October. That saying still holds some clout, but the month should really be changed to November, especially on this Phillies team.

For a team and fan base that is shooting for a ‘parade or bust’ postseason the real mark of excellence is winning it all, not the division series, not even the league championship series. Philadelphia Phillies fans have witnessed great game one accomplishments before, Cole Hamels was huge in 2008 and Cliff Lee was equal to the task in 2009, but the team, after winning it all in 2008, ended up losing their second of back to back trips to the big dance. Most of the members of the Phils are local heroes and can try to downplay the pressure that has been created thanks to their winning ways, but its still there. This is Philly, right?

Will Halladay’s no-hitter be a spark plug for the rest of the rotation to shut down the line-ups just like he did? Hopefully! Will it also create a benchmark that is just too high for Oswalt and Hamels to match? Probably, but they’re not pitching against him and his records. If Oswalt pitches tomorrow and throws six solid innings of three run ball but the Phillies don’t give him run support will the headlines be that Oswalt felt the pressure to follow up the Halladay outing with something of equal value, or that the team couldn’t find their bats? In a town that is quick to point fingers it’s hard to downplay the fact that the pressure is squarely on the other two members of H2O to come through with great performances as well.

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