Note: On Nov. 7, 2017, authorities confirmed that former Major League Baseball pitcher Roy Halladay died in a small plane crash in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida. This is coverage from Miami Herald archives published the day after Halladay threw a perfect game against the Florida Marlins.
For a second, perhaps two, Chris Coghlan thought he had drawn a leadoff walk and began to head toward first base. But before he could get very far, he stopped dead in his tracks when plate umpire Mike DiMuro yelled out, ''Strike three!''
That borderline pitch by Philadelphia Phillies ace Roy Halladay to the first batter he faced Saturday was about as close as the Marlins got all night to putting a runner on base at Sun Life Stadium. The 26 batters who followed Coghlan fared no better, and Halladay ended up with the 20th perfect game in major-league history and the second this season.
When Ronny Paulino grounded out to third baseman Juan Castro for the final out of the game - a 1-0 victory for the Phillies - Halladay clapped his fist in his glove as teammates swarmed on the field and a crowd of 25,086 stood and applauded the rare baseball feat.
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''Once you think it's possible, it's probably two outs in the ninth,'' Halladay said. ''The fans were awesome. To be on the road and see them that into it, it was really special. It made it all the more memorable.''
Halladay's masterpiece marked the second time that the Marlins have been held hitless. Ramon Martinez no-hit the
Marlins at Dodger Stadium in 1995. But Halladay was even better, dazzling the crowd with his pitching artistry in becoming one of the few to face 27 batters and retire every one of them. Jim Bunning in 1964 was the only other Phillies pitcher to perform the feat.
Dallas Braden of the Oakland Athletics threw a perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays on May 9, making this the first time two perfect games have been thrown in one season in the modern era. Interestingly, six of the 20 perfect games have been decided by 1-0 scores.
''Look who's pitching - Roy Halladay,'' Marlins outfielder Cody Ross huffed when asked if it was embarrassing to be on the losing end of a perfect game. ''He's the best pitcher in baseball. It's not embarrassing.''
Halladay, a former Cy Young Award winner, struck out 11, induced eight groundouts and survived only three real scares. Shortstop Wilson Valdez went into the hole to glove Cameron Maybin's grounder in the sixth and threw out the speedster by a step. Castro came up with Jorge Cantu's sharp one-hopper in the eighth before throwing him out. And pinch-hitter Mike Lamb hit a deep drive to center that was hauled in by Shane Victorino with his back to the wall to start the ninth.
''I was hoping for some wind,'' Lamb said.
Otherwise, the Marlins posed few challenges for the 33-year-old pitcher, who defeated them once before this season in Philadelphia. Halladay went to three-ball counts on seven batters, including Coghlan in the first, but never threw a fourth ball to any of them. ''I'm not a guy who really argues calls,'' Coghlan said.
But Coghlan thought Halladay's 3-2 pitch to him in the first was ball four.
''I thought it was close - a ball - but obviously it was a strike to the umpire [Saturday night], and that's all that matters,'' Coghlan said.
Hanley Ramirez also appeared surprised when an inside pitch on a 3-2 count in the seventh was called strike three.
While Halladay was flawless, his counterpart, Josh Johnson, was nearly equal to the challenge. Johnson gave up seven hits, and the only run he allowed was unearned.
That came in the third inning when Maybin was frozen for a moment in center by Chase Utley's line drive before retreating toward the wall. Maybin reached up in the air for the ball, but it skipped off the top of his glove for a three-base error that scored Valdez from first.
Maybin thought he might have gained a small measure of redemption in the sixth when he grounded a ball into the hole between short and third. But Valdez made the play and threw him out.
''When I hit a ball like that, I always smell a base hit,'' Maybin said. ''But he made a great play, a great, strong throw.''
Halladay needed only 115 pitches and 2 hours, 13 minutes to dispense of the Marlins, who were held to two unearned runs in Friday's loss to the Phillies and have scored three runs or less in seven of their past nine games.
By losing four in a row and seven of their past nine, the Marlins have also fallen into last place.
''Right now, it stinks,'' manager Fredi Gonzalez said of being on the losing end of Halladay's gem. ''Maybe 10 years from now you can say I was sitting in the dugout the last time this happened.''
It was the second time that Gonzalez has beenthe wrong end of a perfect game. He was the thirdbase coach for the Braves when Arizona's Randy Johnson threw a perfect game against AtlantaMay 14, 2004. Gonzalez pulled out all the stops in a futile bid to apply the first blemish on Halladay, sending three pinch-hitters to the plate in the ninth. But Halladay erased that trio, just as he did the 24 Marlins preceding it, retiring Lamb on the deep fly ball, striking out Wes Helms and getting Paulino to bounce out to third.
Afterward, Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria found his way to Halladay and told him that he would give him the pitching rubber to keep as a memento. Sure enough, with the lights out at Sun Life Stadium and a postgame concert in progress on the field, workers dug out the white slab. Halladay made it his property along withSaturday's masterpiece.
BY THE NUMBERS
2 Times the Marlins have been no-hit in team history, the other coming by the Dodgers' Ramon Martinez in July 1995. Strikeouts for Roy Halladay, the first
11 time this season he has reached double digits. He recorded at least one strikeout in every inning but the fifth.
20 Perfect games in MLB history after Halladay's gem. Coupled with Oakland pitcher Dallas Braden's perfect game on May 9, it's the first time in the modern era that two perfect games have been thrown in the same season.
115 Total pitches thrown by Halladay, including 72 strikes. The former AL Cy Young Award winner threw a first-pitch strike to 14 of the 27 batters he faced.