There have been 78 sudden-death elimination games in postseason history. Sometimes these are referred to as "ultimate" games.
Before Friday night, only two of those of games ended up 1-0. Now three have. Call them the ultimate classics.
The pitching duel between Roy Halladay and Chris Carpenter may not have been a World Series game, but it's going to remembered as one of the great pitching matchups we've seen. Halladay, the best pitcher in baseball, made maybe one mistake the entire game, a leadoff triple to Rafael Furcal, who then scored on Skip Schumacher's double.
That's all Carpenter had to do -- outpitch a guy who made one mistake. Amazingly, he did it, with a brilliant 110-pitch three-hitter, sending home the best team in baseball, the pain of October written all over the faces of players and fans who thought this was the Phillies' year.
Carpenter entered the ninth inning at 102 pitches. He'd survived Raul Ibanez's deep fly to right field with two outs and two on in the fourth inning. In the eighth, he had help from Furcal, who made one of the best plays you'll ever see -- a diving stop up the middle on Carlos Ruiz's grounder that sent dirt flying everywhere, followed by him scrambling to his feet to throw a laser to first base to catch Ruiz by half a step.
In the ninth he had to face the heart of the Philadelphia order. Here's how history is made:
104 -- Hunter Pence fouls off an inside fastball.
105 -- Routine grounder to third baseman Daniel Descalso.
106 -- Ryan Howard -- 0-for-his last 14 -- takes a breaking ball low and inside.
107 -- Swings through another curveball.
108 -- Foul tip.
109 -- Curveball way outside.
110 -- Another curveball, a routine grounder to second baseman Nick Punto, shifted way over toward right field. (Sadly, Howard was injured as he stepped out of the batter's box and collapsed in a heap of pain.)
The Phillies had the best pitching staff we've seen in many years. It took them to a franchise-record 102 wins. It was World Series or bust for this team, and now Phillies fans know what it's like to root for the Yankees or Red Sox, where winning it all is seemingly the only worthy ending. It doesn't seem like a fun way to go through a baseball season.
Phillies fans will be thinking about three plays. Utley was caught stealing in the sixth inning on a wonderful throw by Yadier Molina. Utley was 50-for-52 stealing bases the past three years. He ran on a 73 mph curveball from Carpenter. Somehow, Molina threw him out, with replays confirming the quick tag from Punto. There was nothing wrong with sending Utley there; Molina just made a play.
In the seventh, Howard led off and Carpenter fell behind with three balls. Howard got the green light and swung at a high fastball and flew out to right field. Considering Howard's struggles, a green light was questionable, especially leading off the inning. Carpenter smiled after the out, perhaps knowing he got away with one, perhaps surprised Howard had swung at all.
In the eighth, Charlie Manuel sent up Ross Gload to pinch hit for Halladay. Why Gload over John Mayberry Jr.? Gload hit .257, had a .276 on-base percentage and no home runs in 113 at-bats this season. He may be Manuel's pinch-hitter of choice, but Manuel absolutely had to hit Mayberry there, a guy with 15 home runs in 267 at-bats, including seven in 156 at-bats against right-handers. With two outs and a 1-0 game, you needed to send up a guy who could pop one out. (Gload actually reached on a dropped third strike when Molina made a bad throw to first base, but Carpenter got Jimmy Rollins on a ground ball that bounced off his glove right to Punto for a 1-4-3 putout.)
You can digest those moves, but the final analysis is rather simple: Carpenter was a magician out there. Tip your caps, Phillies fans, tip your caps. (And don't get me going on the boos I heard at the end of the game, with Howard down on the baseline, unable to get up. Thanks for all those home runs, Ryan.)
It was the 42nd 1-0 postseason game ever played, but in the history books it moves right behind Jack Morris' 1-0, 10-inning gem in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series and Ralph Terry's 1-0 win for the Yankees over the Giants in Game 7 of the 1962 World Series.
Roy Halladay. Chris Carpenter. One to remember.