Halladay had mowed through Boston's lineup for the first seven innings, allowing a lone run to score on a sacrifice fly by former Blue Jay Eric Hinske in the second. In the eighth, the right-hander gave up a bunt single to Red Sox leadoff hitter Coco Crisp and then induced a fly out from Kevin Youkilis.
That brought Boston slugger David Ortiz to the plate, and initiated Gibbons' stroll to the mound. Halladay's pitch count had reached 95, and left-hander Scott Downs was ready in the bullpen with the Blue Jays (8-7) nursing a 3-1 lead. Gibbons allowed Halladay to pitch 10 innings in his previous outing, but the manager decided to play the percentages this time around.
"I thought he was done," Gibbons explained. "He gave us what we needed and one of the best hitters in the game was at the plate."
Halladay wasn't about to argue, either.
"It really comes down to the situation," Halladay said. "Having Ortiz come up and Downs up and ready, I think that plays more into it than I how I feel at that point. I don't think that's really a factor. I think the best chance of getting him out there with the tying run at the plate is Scott Downs."
The move worked, temporarily. Downs struck out Ortiz on a check swing for the second out of the inning, but another big bat loomed.
Gibbons called right-hander Shaun Marcum in from the bullpen to face Manny Ramirez. After falling into a 2-0 hole against Boston's left fielder, Marcum (1-1) tossed a changeup over the heart of the plate. Ramirez deposited it over the center-field wall for a two-run homer, which gave him 26 career blasts at Rogers Centre and knotted the score at 3.
"The location was terrible," Marcum said. "I think my little sister probably could've hit it as far, if not farther. It was a changeup right down the middle, up in the zone, down the middle, pretty much on the tee."
That put the finishing touches on Halladay's line: two runs on six hits with two strikeouts and three walks. Marcum and right-hander Jason Frasor then combined to seal Toronto's fate in the ninth, surrendering two more runs.
That provided more than enough cushion for closer Jonathan Papelbon, who made quick work of the Blue Jays in the ninth en route to his fourth save of the year for the Red Sox (9-5). Papelbon, who is in his second season as Boston's closer, now has seven saves against Toronto -- his most vs. any opponent.
"Every loss is disappointing, and obviously you want to see Doc get his win," said Toronto center fielder Vernon Wells, referring to Halladay. "He battled and gave us a chance to win. Unfortunately, this time, we weren't able to do it for him."
Toronto's bats fell into a lull in the three-game set against Boston. The Blue Jays notched just six runs in the series, and averaged just four runs per game over the 10-game homestand. Toronto is also playing without regulars Reed Johnson and Troy Glaus, who are both on the disabled list.
On Thursday, Toronto managed just three runs on six hits against Boston starter Julian Tavarez, who lasted 5 1/3 frames. Jays designated hitter Frank Thomas and right fielder Alex Rios each chipped in solo home runs, and Wells added an RBI double in the sixth to put Toronto ahead, 3-1.
"We had a two-run lead," Gibbons said. "We just didn't score enough runs. We had some chances. We're in a little rut, but we'll battle through it."