MIAMI - Stoic as always, Roy Halladay's expression never changed. Until the end, that is. Until there was history, a perfect game, the marquee performance of his career.
The Philadelphia Phillies' ace threw the 20th perfect game in major-league history last night, beating the Florida Marlins, 1-0. When he got pinch hitter Ronny Paulino to ground to third for the 27th out, only then could Halladay bask in his moment - breaking into a big smile and wrapping his arms around catcher Carlos Ruiz before disappearing in a joyous, jumping mob of teammates.
"It's never something that you think is possible," Halladay said. "Really, once I got the two outs, I felt like I had a chance."
Halladay struck out 11 and was cheered by a crowd of 25,086 that included many Phillies fans. There were a few good plays behind him - shortstop Wilson Valdez went deep into the hole for a grounder, backup third baseman Juan Castro went to his knees for another, second baseman Chase Utley ranged well to his left for another fine play - but he didn't need any great defensive work in this gem. The 33-year-old righty known as Doc was a veritable one-man show.
"You've got to take your hat off to Doc," Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "That's why he is who he is. That's what they got him for."
Steely-eyed, standing tall and always working swiftly, Halladay (7-3) broke into a big smile as his teammates rushed in to congratulate him.
The former AL Cy Young winner was within one out of a no-hitter on Sept. 27, 1998, in just his second major-league start, pitching for the Blue Jays. But Detroit pinch hitter Bobby Higginson's homer spoiled it.
Last night, Halladay faced three Marlins pinch hitters in the ninth. Mike Lamb led off with a long fly ball to Shane Victorino in centerfield and Wes Helms struck out, leaving it up to Paulino. On a 1-and-2 pitch, he stabbed at Halladay's 115th and final offering. Castro ranged to his left to get it and threw across to first baseman Ryan Howard, who leaped into the air after the out.
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