Roy Halladay was as close to being perfect as possible Wednesday, without being, well, perfect.
His one blemish against the Reds? A fifth-inning, six-pitch walk to Jay Bruce. That's all that prevented Doc from joining Don Larsen with a perfect game in the postseason and adding his second perfecto of the season. Of course, Halladay did make history of his own, becoming just the second pitcher to toss a no-hitter in the postseason along with Larsen.
From some angles, though, it seemed like several of the balls during Bruce's at-bat were close -- perhaps close enough to look twice and ask, what if?
"I felt like he threw some balls inside on Bruce that were close," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "I couldn't see them from where I was at, but he definitely threw some close to the plate when he walked him."
Halladay, despite losing Bruce after having a 2-2 count, said after the game that he thought home-plate umpire John Hirschbeck was consistent in his calls.
"I felt like really it was a pretty fair zone," Halladay said. "From what I saw in between innings, they were calling the same pitches that I was getting. It's one of those things that I think there's always going to be certain cases where people aren't happy with what's called, but that's part of the game. It's always been part of the game."
Of course, Halladay's effort was more than impressive, and one walk isn't much to lose sleep over. But, just for the sake of discussion, how close were his misses? Let's take a pitch-by-pitch look at Halladay's only misstep of the game:
Pitch one: Strike swinging on a fastball with a lot of downward movement. Like many of his teammates before him, Bruce got out in front of this one and swung over the top.
Pitch two: Cutter low. According to TBS' pitch tracker, it missed low, but just barely. From the tracker, this appeared to be the closest of the called balls.
Pitch three: Cutter inside. A good distance off the inside corner of the plate, this attempt to get Bruce to chase didn't work.
Pitch four: Strike swinging on curveball. Bruce swung through a vintage Halladay curve, that broke 12 inches right over the heart of the plate.
Pitch five: Fastball inside. Halladay's fastball didn't back up quite enough and stayed too far inside. This pitch missed inside by a few inches, but was close enough for a second look for some. From his vantage point, Halladay agreed that the pitch didn't move quite enough back over the plate.
"Yeah, two strikes, we tried to throw a sinker inside, and it kind of stayed on its line," Halladay said. "It didn't come back as much as they had earlier in the game. I think if it does, we'd probably get a strike there. But it kind of held its line."
Pitch six: Cutter low. This one painted the inside corner, but missed the zone by about three inches. Halladay said after the game he was reluctant to give in to Bruce on the final pitch of the at-bat, not out of the norm for the veteran hurler. His catcher, Carlos Ruiz offered his own analysis of the final two pitches of the at-bat.
"The last pitch was definitely a ball," Ruiz said. "Just before that pitch, he threw a good one, but that's what happens. He could be perfect all game."
Verdict: If any of Halladay's misses were close enough to be controversial, it would seemingly be pitch No. 2 -- the cutter that landed just south of the strike zone. But after taking a second (and sometimes third) look, Halladay quite simply missed another historical distinction by just a matter of inches, fair and square.
On Wednesday though, Halladay's feat was more than most -- including Halladay himself -- could grasp.
"It's surreal. It really is," Halladay said immediately after finishing off his gem. "I just wanted to pitch here, pitch in the postseason. To be able to go out and have a game like that is a dream come true."
Bailey Stephens is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.