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Speedy Halladay leads Jays to win

Speedy Halladay leads Jays to win

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TORONTO -- The Angels played right into Roy Halladay's hand. The pitches that the Blue Jays ace sent dancing to the corners of the strike zone early in the count were often too tempting for the Halos' hitters to pass up.

The weak contact Halladay continued to induce sent an array of baseball skipping off the bats, across the turf and finally comfortably into the gloves of Toronto's infielders. The end result was a 4-1 victory for the Jays at Rogers Centre, where Halladay briskly sliced his way through the Angels' order with masterful precision on Tuesday night.

"I don't think he can get any better," Toronto manager John Gibbons said. "He was outstanding. He just attacked the zone and got ground ball after ground ball."

It was an especially satisfying win for the Blue Jays (60-58), who were coming off a disappointing 2-2 finish in sweltering conditions on the road in Kansas City. With the victory back in Toronto, the Jays upped their record to 36-22 in front of the home crowd and Halladay improved to 10-1 with a 3.36 ERA at Rogers Centre this year.

"We were a little fatigued coming off that road trip, getting in late last night and dealing with that heat," Blue Jays catcher Gregg Zaun said. "It was the perfect guy for us to have on the mound."

For Halladay (14-5), Los Angeles served as an ideal opponent.

The aggressive style that the Angels (69-48) implement at the plate only fueled the pitch-to-contact style that Halladay utilizes. On Tuesday, the 2003 American League Cy Young Award winner needed only 99 pitches to turn in his fifth complete game of the season -- the highest total in baseball, and coming from a starter who missed three weeks due to an injury in May.

Halladay managed only two strikeouts over nine innings, but he rarely worked deep into a count. Of the 30 batters he faced, 19 had their at-bats come to an end with only three pitches or fewer. Using his two-seam fastball often and early, the right-hander induced 13 outs via ground ball -- 10 of those outs coming over the final six frames.

"They have a couple guys on their team who are pretty aggressive," Halladay said. "With the few guys that you feel are swinging early in the count, you make a quality pitch and sometimes you can get a quick out. That seemed to be the case."

"We threw [the two-seamer] a lot today -- probably more than I have in the last couple starts," he added. "I felt like it was moving good and, for the most part, we were locating it good. If I can do that with it, and also show the cutter on the other side, it makes it a lot more effective."

The evening didn't start out as well as it finished for Halladay.

Chone Figgins opened the game by hammering a pitch just passed the glove of Aaron Hill, who tried to snag the ball with a dive before it bounced into right field. Figgins then promptly stole second base and later scored on a single by Angels slugger Vladimir Guerrero.

"That seemed to make him a little cranky," Zaun said of the early run. "He got a little more focused, and started really hitting on everything and executed his game plan like he always does. It's always fun for me, because mentally I don't have to work as hard."

Los Angeles, which ranks first in the AL in stolen bases, followed by giving Guerrero the green light to swipe second. Zaun caught a pitch from Halladay and relayed the ball to shortstop John McDonald, who tagged the Angels right fielder as he slid into second base. That provided an abrupt end to the first inning, and jump-started Halladay's gem.

"Obviously, they were going to try to run a lot on us," Halladay said. "To keep a guy out of scoring position to end an inning, it does make a big difference. I get to start fresh the next inning. That was a big out for us at the time. That got us in the dugout and got us going."

In the home half of the first, the Blue Jays responded by taking advantage of two of the four errors that the Angels committed in the contest.

In the opening frame, Angels shortstop Erick Aybar misplayed a grounder off the bat of Vernon Wells and catcher Jeff Mathis bobbled a throw on a run down between home and third base -- two miscues that led to two bases-loaded scenarios for the Jays. The gaffes also led to four early runs that sent left-hander Joe Saunders (6-1) to his first defeat of the year.

Toronto first baseman Lyle Overbay singled home Reed Johnson to knot the score at 1, and the Jays capitalized on the errors with a pair of sacrifice flies and an RBI double by Hill. That was all Toronto managed against Saunders, but it provided ample support for Halladay, who breezed through a span of 13 batters between the first and fifth innings without surrendering a hit.

"It seemed like every time I came into the dugout, put my hat down and got a drink of water," Saunders said, "I'd be taking two steps onto the field again."

When it was all said and done, Halladay finished the job in just one hour and 58 minutes -- the second time this season he's completed a game in under two hours. It was vintage Halladay.

"It's nice when you can get to both sides of the plate with an aggressive team," Halladay said. "If you're throwing strikes where you want to, it definitely makes it a lot easier."

The pitches certainly tempted the Angels.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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