On a sweltering Friday night at Rogers Centre, Halladay kept Texas' hitters guessing with an array of biting cutters and looping curveballs. The Rangers still managed to piece together a handful of early runs with a patient approach, but Halladay ultimately prevailed in a 6-4 victory for the Blue Jays.
"He was great," Toronto catcher Gregg Zaun said. "He was no different tonight in his execution or with his stuff than in any of the games he's thrown shutouts. It was just that they were able to lay off some of the tougher pitches, especially later in counts.
"A couple of pitches he threw missed by a matter of an inch, maybe two, for walks," he continued. "Then, they had a couple broken-bat base hits. That's why he gives up four tonight instead of one or zero."
A complete lack of ground-ball outs over the first three innings was one difference for Halladay (12-5), who entered the game ranked fifth in the American League with a 1.94 groundball ratio. Then again, the right-hander tallied five strikeouts over that span for Toronto (54-54).
The former AL Cy Young Award winner finished with nine strikeouts on the night, and he exited after reaching 105 pitches in six-plus innings. Over his last four trips to the mound, Halladay has posted a tidy 2.10 ERA for Toronto, and he improved to 32-20 at home with the win.
"We bounced back with a a strong win," said Toronto manager John Gibbons, whose club was coming off a 2-4 road trip against the White Sox and Devil Rays. "It wasn't an easy night for Doc. It was a hot, humid day, but he battled against a team we've had trouble with."
Halladay's first glitch came in the first, when he opened the game by hitting Texas left fielder (and former Blue Jay) Frank Catalanotto with a pitch. Three batters later, Marlon Byrd sent the first offering he saw bouncing deep into the right-center-field gap for a two-out triple, scoring Catalanotto for the Rangers' first run.
In the second inning, Halladay started things off by striking out Nelson Cruz and Jarrod Saltalamacchia for two quick outs. Things then began to unravel when Texas catcher Gerald Laird sent shards of his bat and a pitch diving into left field for a single. Halladay then loaded the bases, and gave up a second broken bat single -- this time to Ian Kinsler -- to score two more runs.
"I felt like we made some good pitches," Halladay said. "They had two broken-bat hits -- one leads to two runs. I felt like, for the most part, we were executing. It was just we weren't getting the hops that we wanted. It was more a game where I felt like I was making quality pitches and I just tried to continue doing that."
Toronto's offense came to Halladay's aid with a pair of three-run innings against the Rangers (48-62). The Jays' first outburst came with two outs in the opening frame, when Vernon Wells stepped to the plate to face Texas starter Kevin Millwood with runners on second and third base.
Wells chopped a pitch to the left side of the infield, where Rangers shortstop Michael Young backhanded the ball and relayed it to first. Wells barely beat out the throw for a base hit, which scored one run to knot the score at 1. Blue Jays designated hitter Frank Thomas followed by pulling an offering into left field for a two-run double.
The Blue Jays forced Millwood out of the game after just four innings and then turned their attention to reliever Jamey Wright (3-4), who made a critical error that led to three Toronto runs in the sixth. After Wells reached on another single, Thomas chopped a pitch back to the mound, where Wright gloved the ball.
Wright spun and attempted to start a double play, but he threw the ball wildly into center field. That allowed Thomas to reach first safely, and Wells promptly advanced to third base. Both runners went on to score when Aaron Hill and Zaun came through with consecutive RBI hits, putting the Jays ahead for good, 6-3.
"We had some good at-bats against Millwood," Gibbons said. "We built up his pitch count, but then Wright came in and did a nice job. We had that one big inning -- got some key hits. There was that big one by Zaunie there to give us that three-run lead."
That was ample support for Halladay, who turned in a better outing than his stat line will indicate. Halladay can attest to that.
"Honestly, I felt good the whole time," he said.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.