When I jumped on Facebook and saw a picture of Roy Halladay with “1977-2017” plastered across the bottom, I had to double-take. There is nothing subtle about seeing two years book-ending each other like that so within the span of just a few seconds, I was frantically typing Halladay’s name into google to see what had happened. As many baseball fans did, I felt the atypical devastation that comes with a star athlete dying. I had never known Halladay, nor had I ever really been an adamant follower of his career.
Most of what I knew about Halladay was that he was the quintessential workhorse. This stat, in particular, is pretty crazy.
I also knew that he was one of the most dominant pitchers of my lifetime and with a good chunk of my childhood taking place when Halladay was wreaking havoc on the American League in Toronto, I grew accustomed to the beatings he would give the hapless mid-2000’s Royals. In fact, in his career, Halladay made 14 starts against the Royals and the 2.65 ERA he notched in those starts was the fourth lowest against any team in his career in which he made at least 10 starts against.
Halladay dominated Kansas City. In 102 innings against the Royals, he gave up just 19 extra-base hits and he averaged over seven innings per start, including four complete games. One particular stretch from 2005-2008, Halladay made four starts against the Royals and three of those resulted in complete games. Naturally, two of those three complete games were wins for Halladay.
For his career, Halladay lost 105 games. 15 of those losses were complete games. One of those complete game losses came on August 26, 2006 against none other than Runelvys Hernandez and the Royals.
For all of the Royals fans reading this that were either born too late or became fans in the last few seasons, you will not recognize the name, Runelvys Hernandez. In fact, if you are a baseball fan of any kind and you do remember the name Runelvys Hernandez, I am sorry. You don’t deserve that. Over his five year MLB career, Hernandez appeared in 82 games, starting in all 82 of them. In those 82 appearances, Hernandez tallied a 5.50 ERA.
He accrued one complete game in his big league career and just happened to occur as future Hall of Famer Roy Halladay was doing the same. The career trajectory of both men could not have been more different, but for one Joe West-umpired afternoon in August, Runelvys Hernandez outdueled Roy Halladay.
The Royals entered Rogers Centre with a 46-84 record. Incredibly, they had managed to win just 17 road games all season before the afternoon contest in front of 38,000 Blue Jays fans. Toronto, meanwhile, was hanging around in the AL Wild Card race, with a 68-60 record, thanks in large part to another Cy Young caliber season from Halladay.
The Royals jumped on Halladay quickly, with a two-out solo shot from Mark Teahen to put Kansas City up 1-0. Ah yes, the days of Teahen hitting third for the Royals. It should be noted that 2006 was far and away Teahen’s best season as a professional, as he hit a career-high 18 homers, slugged at a .517 clip and finished the years with a 123 wRC+.
It was then that Hernandez and his 7.50 ERA (!!) took the mound. His first inning wound up being his roughest, with Reed Johnson and Frank Catalanotto leading off the game with back-to-back singles. However, on the Catalanotto single, David Dejesus gunned down Johnson at third for the first out of the inning. Troy Glaus would walk later in the inning, but Hernandez would get out of the inning unscathed.
Emil Brown led off the next inning with a groundout by Ryan Shealy followed with another solo shot to put the Royals up 2-0, which would prove to be the final score. Halladay would retire the next 14 batters and give up just two more hits the rest of the way, but the Blue Jays lineup would not have an answer for Hernandez.
Manager Buddy Bell said this after the game.
"We needed this too," Bell said. "We needed this kind of game. We haven't had one all year, I don't think. It was awesome."
With the Royals being almost 40-games under .500, Bell was correct that Kansas City was in need of a win. This may be one of my favorite bad-Royals quotes of all-time. So much going on. The Royals needed the kind of game where they only get four hits and win. They certainly needed more of those.
When remembering Roy Halladay, few people will remember this game. I was lucky to stumble upon it. I can’t imagine there being a whole bunch of alternative universes where Roy Halladay pitches a complete game, with Runelvys Hernandez opposing him, and doesn’t come out with the win.
But for one afternoon, perfectly aligned in the cosmos, we got that, because baseball loves us.
And baseball certainly loved Roy Halladay.
Rest in Peace, Doc.