"He's a security blanket," Jays manager John Gibbons said. "Very rarely does he get knocked around. He gives you a chance to win and you usually do win. He saves bullpens, he continues winning streaks, stops losing streaks and that's how you get things going."
There isn't much debate about who the pitcher of the month was for Toronto. Halladay finished April with a perfect 4-0 record and a 2.28 ERA. He lasted at least six innings in each outing and has yet to give up more than three runs in a game this season. In the six starts Halladay made in April, the Jays lost just one, surrendering a lead after he exited that outing.
After Halladay gave up one run in the first inning against the Rangers, the Jays offense staked him to a 3-1 lead by the end of the second inning. From there on, Halladay was almost perfect. He faced the minimum during a stretch that lasted from the second inning until the seventh.
"He's like all of the great ones that have pitched in this game," said Gibbons, who collected his 200th career victory as manager of the Jays. "You give them a little lead, they smell it, they turn it on, and it makes them that much tougher. It's tough to come back against that, I don't care how good your offense is."
As usual, the game moved along swiftly with Halladay on the mound. Monday's win took just two hours and two minutes to complete -- the fastest game of the year for both Toronto and Texas. Over the last five seasons, the average time of a nine-inning game started by Halladay has been two hours and 37 minutes, which is the second fastest time of any Major League pitcher. Jays second baseman Aaron Hill is one person who loves the quick tempo that Halladay frequently provides.
"It's fun to be part of the pace he keeps the game at," Hill said. "It gets you pumped up because it's just fun when a guy's out there doing what he does and doing it perfect. It's pretty."
For Halladay, working quickly is something that helps breed success.
"I feel like I can stay in a rhythm a little bit better, and it's easier to stay aggressive when I'm working quickly," Halladay said. "I'm always conscious of tempo and trying to keep [pitching] at a quick pace. If things aren't going good and I need to step off and gather myself a little bit, then I need to do that. When things are going good and you're getting ahead, then I like working quick."
Heading into the season, Halladay would have been the odds-on favorite to be the star pitcher of the month, but the early season offensive star is a bit more a dark horse.
Just in case anyone forgot how well Hill was hitting in April, he decided to remind them by crushing a 2-2 fastball from Rangers starter Vicente Padilla (0-4) into the second deck in left field. The two-run shot was Hill's fifth home run of the season. He closes out April with a .313 average (30-for-96) and is the team leader in home runs with five and RBIs with 20. That's a huge turnaround from last year's opening month, when Hill batted just .196 (15-for-77) with zero home runs and five RBIs.
"I'm just feeling more comfortable than ... last year, I guess," Hill said. "I'm not trying to hit [home runs]. I'll take them when they come, obviously, but I'm just doing the same thing, getting my foot down and seeing the ball."
Toronto finishes April with a 13-12 record. It wasn't the amount of wins Toronto was hoping for at the start of the season, but considering the amount of injuries the Jays have had to deal with, things could have been a whole lot worse. Toronto has already placed eight Blue Jays on the disabled list this season, equaling the number of players who landed on the DL all of last season.
Jays third baseman Troy Glaus, who tied the game in the second inning with a solo shot to left, was one of the walking wounded earlier this month. Since being activated from the DL on Saturday, the Jays slugger has shown no ill-effects from the bone spur in his left heel that kept him out for 14 games. In his three games back, Glaus is hitting .500 (4-for-8) with one home run and four RBIs. Based on just performance, it looks like Glaus is back to 100 percent.
"Not exactly, but we're working on it," Glaus said. "I've been in the cage trying to get [my swing] back. We're putting our time in ... and are trying to get it right, trying to get the timing and the speed of the game back to normal."
Injuries give new players an opportunity to step in and fill the void. One player who is doing exactly that is left fielder Adam Lind, who has stepped in to replace injured Reed Johnson, out until at least the All-Star break with a herniated disk in his lower back. During the seventh inning of Monday's game, Lind took a fastball from Padilla over the wall in right field. It was Lind's third home run in his past four games.
That's the kind of performance that could help Toronto stay near the top of the American League East. Halladay has been with the Jays for his entire 10-year career. He's seen a lot, and knows there isn't anybody in the league who is going to feel sorry for what Toronto has had to go through in the first month of the season.
"It's always tough regardless of who you lose, but I think we haven't had that give-up attitude yet, which I think is important," Halladay said. "We're gonna keep fighting regardless of who's in there. We're going to do the best job we can with who we have."