David Price looked completely prepared for the pressure of tonight’s do-or-die game of the American League Division Series. The Tampa Bay Rays pitcher has a starring role in Clutch, but what I describe in my book was a different situation: relief pitching in a tight game when he was still a rookie. Tonight, Price, who started this year’s All Star Game, was throwing against another ace in Texas Rangers pitcher Cliff Lee, a much-more experienced ballplayer. The two went head-to-head early on, with Price looking stronger – more strikeouts, greater ease on the mound. But then Price’s teammates started to make bad plays. The worst was a botched throw from home plate to third on a stolen base: the ball flew into the outfield and the runner came home. So did anyone choke? The game was completely pressure packed but when it came to pitching the two men were equally clutch. They maintained their focus and discipline. It was the fielders and batters who failed the Rays, or save the Rangers.
Roy Halladay’s no-hitter tonight was a quintessential clutch performance – but not in the way many sports fans think about. Most fans use the term too broadly. In Clutch, I set the bar higher and define clutch more precisely: it’s the ability to do what you can do normally but under pressure. The player who hits the game-winning home run is not clutch – there is too much luck involved in that. The great pitcher who wins the playoff game could be clutch. But Halladay’s performance tonight has set the standard for textbook clutch performance. After all, he threw a no-hitter in May when the only pressure on him was self-imposed – no small feat, mind you. But tonight, he repeated that under the intensity of the playoffs. It would be foolish to say that throwing a no-hitter in the regular season is ‘normal conditions’, by my definition, but he threw one and then repeated this incredible, pressure-packed feat under even greater pressure. Now that Tiger Woods is off the clutch stage, Halladay has made his case for being the most clutch athlete of our time.