Thursday, October 7, 2010

Playoff Players: No-Hit Halladay; Lee's 10 Ks Down Rays: Teixeira Drives Yankee Win

Players of the Day for Wednesday, October 6, 2010

National League

In the most dazzling post-season pitching performance since Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series, Philadelphia's Roy Halladay entirely shut down the National League's most prolific offense with a no-hitter in game one of the best-of-five divisional series in a 4-0 win over the Reds.

Facing just one batter over the minimum, the likely NL Cy Young award winner's only misstep was a 5th inning walk issued to Jay Bruce. Beyond that, Halladay was magnificent, hitting the corners with all of his pitches and keeping batters off-balance by changing speeds and throwing to spots.

Halladay struck out eight, and got 12 more outs on ground balls. He threw only 104 pitches, 79 of which went for strikes. Hardly any balls were hard-hit, and the most difficult play was probably on the shortest hit ball of the game, which also resulted in the final out, when Brandon Phillips pounded a pitch into the dirt in front of home plate. The ball traveled no more than seven feet, but Carlos Ruiz, who Halladay credited for calling a great game, pounced and threw a strike to Ryan Howard, planted on first base 90 feet away.

The no-hitter was the first in post-season play since the Yankees' Don Larsen threw a perfect game in the 1956 world Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers. Halladay also became the first pitcher ever to throw a no-hitter (actually a perfect game against Florida on May 29) in the regular season and the post-season in the same year.

The Phillies, who took the NL East for the fourth straight season, relied heavily on Halladay's arm to catch and overtake the Braves. The ace went 11-2 from the end of June to the end of the season.

Halladay also aided his own cause, driving in a run in the second inning and scoring on Shane Victorino's 2-RBI single. The Phillies took a 1-0 lead in the series, which resumes Friday at 6:07 pm ET in Philadelphia.

American League

Tampa Bay battled all the way to the final game of the season to secure home field advantage in the playoffs by winning the AL East, then squandered it in the opening innings of their playoff game with the visiting Rangers.

Texas scored a pair of runs in the second inning and single runs in the 3rd, 4th and 5th, chasing Rays' starter David Price on nine hits over 6 2/3 innings. While Price was stumbling, Ranger starter Cliff Lee was stunning, fanning 10 over seven innings without walking a batter, allowing only five hits and a solitary run in the 7th inning on Ben Zobrist's solo homer, which proved to be far too little as the Rangers took game one, 5-1.

Lee was most in trouble in the bottom of the first inning, when he gave up three singles to load the bases with one out, but then got Carlos Pena looking at a called third strike and Rocko Baldelli with a swinging strikeout to finish the inning unscathed.

Catcher Benji Molina was the hitting star, going 3-for-4 with a solo home run and two RBI as the Rangers took a 1-0 lead in the series. Game two is scheduled for 2:37 pm ET on Thursday.

The Yankees rallied from a 3-0 deficit with four runs in the top of the sixth, and after Minnesota tied the game with a run in the bottom of the inning, Mark Teixeira blasted a 2-run homer to right field in the 7th, putting the Yankees ahead in a 6-4 win over the Twins to open the best-of-five series in Minnesota.

Teixeira, who led the Yankees during the regular season with 33 homers, delivered the clutch blow an inning after he had singled and scored the Yankees' first run, driven in by second baseman Robinson Cano. Jorge Posada drove in another run in the inning and Curtis Granderson capped the 4-run rally with a 2-run triple.

Teixeira finished with a 2-for-5 effort at the plate with two runs and two RBI. In 20 post-season games (4 with the Angels in 2008), Teixeira has a .247 average with 3 homers and 11 RBI. In the 2009 run to the world championship, Teixeira batted .282 with 4 homers, 8 RBI, scoring 10 runs.

Game two of the series is Thursday at 6:07 pm ET in Minnesota.

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