Fortunately for the Blue Jays, Halladay's pregame confidence translated into an overpowering effort en route to a 2-0 victory over the Mariners. Halladay methodically sliced his way through Seattle's lineup, piecing together his Major League-leading sixth complete game of the season.
It marked Toronto's third win in a row, but just the third victory in the club's past dozen contests on the road. For Halladay, the win was his first in more than three weeks, and was one that started with some minor adjustments in a successful round in the bullpen.
"It's nice when you go out and you feel like everything's there and it's going to be one of those good ones," Halladay said. "I just felt a little more together, where before I was kind of scrambling for a few things. It's nice to figure those things out and feel good."
On this night, the Mariners were victims of a great one from Halladay.
Halladay needed just two hours and 25 minutes to work through nine crisp innings for the Blue Jays (41-43), who moved one game closer to their goal of reaching the .500 mark before the All-Star break. Halladay retired the side in order five times and only once did a runner advance beyond first base against the ace.
The Mariners received a strong outing from right-hander R.A. Dickey (2-4), but this evening belonged to Halladay. Early on, it was the type of performance from Halladay that had Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston simply hoping for one or two runs from his offense, knowing that might be all a win required.
"That's true," Gaston said. "I actually said that, 'Hey, if we can get a couple, I think Doc can hold it,' and that's what he did. We would take five or six, but that was OK, too."
All the support Halladay (9-6) would need came between the fifth and sixth innings, when Marco Scutaro contributed a run-scoring single and Rod Barajas drove home a run with a bases-loaded groundout. It was a slim two-run cushion from a Jays' lineup that stranded nine and went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position.
The low output hardly mattered, though.
As the game progressed, Halladay teamed with Barajas in changing their approach, using pitches that the ace might not normally turn to in certain counts. That was by design and the result was what Barajas described as "the best effort" he's seen from Halladay this season.
"We were able to make the in-game adjustments," Barajas said. "We'd see guys looking for a pitch that we initially said we were going to throw and we were able to switch it up and go a different direction to keep them off-balance."
Halladay said that aspect was crucial.
"I go over the hitters and sometimes get stuck in how I think we can get them out," Halladay said. "It's something I talked to Rod about and he does a great job of being able to mix things up and sometimes go against the book, and that makes a big difference."
With his sinker darting hard through the strike zone, Halladay induced 16 outs via ground ball. The 2003 American League Cy Young Award winner registered 22 first-pitch strikes among the 32 Seattle hitters he faced and finished with 115 pitches, including 84 for strikes, in the game.
Halladay turned to the strikeout when necessary, finishing with six against Seattle, which was also the victim of his last shutout on July 22 last season. Five of those whiffs came within the seven outs Halladay created with runners on base and, on a handful of occasions, his fastball clocked in at 95-96 mph on the radar gun.
That had Halladay laughing after the win.
"I think the gun is juiced," he joked. "Honestly, I think that the gun is probably a couple clicks above the one back home."
Whatever the case, the Mariners (31-51) had really only one good shot at scoring against Halladay. In the seventh inning, Halladay surrendered consecutive singles to Jeremy Reed and Richie Sexson to put runners on the corners with only one out. A strikeout and groundout later, Halladay escaped the threat unscathed.
"He hates giving up runs," Barajas said. "He's a guy who wants to go out there every single time and throw a shutout. Once they got on base, he wasn't going to give them any chances to move up. He made some great pitches."
Maybe the hardest ball hit all night by Seattle came with two outs in the ninth inning, when Reed drilled an offering down the first-base line. Perfectly positioned, Toronto first baseman Lyle Overbay gloved the liner for the game's final out, sealing the 10th career shutout for Halladay.
"Doc was outstanding, just absolutely great," Gaston said. "What else can you say about it?"
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less