Halladay sliced his way through the Angels' lineup on Saturday night and, following a brief scare from the Blue Jays' bullpen, the ace picked up a well-earned victory in a 7-5 win at Angel Stadium. It was merely another entry into what has been an impressive campaign for the leader of Toronto's staff.
On this night, the Angels featured a plethora of feeble swings at a sharp sinker from Halladay, who seemingly had the pitch dancing and darting at will. Evidence of Halladay's dominance came in the reactions from the Los Angeles hitters.
Gary Matthews Jr. simply shook his head repeatedly as he left the batter's box following a strike three call in the seventh inning. Torii Hunter just stared at Halladay as the outfielder slowly made his way back to the dugout in the second, appearing baffled after flailing at a sinker for a strikeout.
"He made some good pitches on them," said Toronto manager Cito Gaston, referring to Halladay. "But this guy is an All-Star pitcher. He's got a chance, if he stays healthy, who knows? He might be a Hall-of-Fame pitcher. He has Hall-of-Fame stuff."
That's a main reason why Halladay seems to be a lock for a fifth All-Star selection come Sunday. With his latest victory, Halladay improved to 10-6 with a tidy 2.88 ERA on the season. The seven innings the right-hander turned in for the Jays (42-46) upped his Major League-leading total to 136 1/3 frames.
Relying on his sinker and signature cutter, Halladay struck out seven and induced 10 outs via ground ball against the Angels (52-35). The win was Halladay's seventh in his past eight decisions, and the 2003 AL Cy Young Award winner has gone 7-1 with a 2.54 ERA over his past 11 games, in which he's fanned 66 and walked just 10 across 74 1/3 innings.
"It's a pretty good offensive club," Halladay said of the Angels. "So I had to do a good job of trying to work both sides of the plate and changing speeds as much as we could. I think it helped. There's a lot of guys there who have a pretty good idea and make adjustments, so we tried to move the ball around as much as we could."
The lone blemish within Halladay's performance came in the fourth inning, when Angels slugger Vladimir Guerrero sent a low offering deep to center field for a two-run homer. That blast ended a streak of 12 2/3 consecutive shutout innings for Halladay, who noted that Guerrero is one of the only hitters capable of reaching that type of pitch.
"He's got that knack of hitting pitches like that," Halladay said. "With him, if it's down there, it's either got to be more in, or it's got to be up. That ball there just kind of comes right in to -- I mean, it's not a swing path -- but it's a ball that he gets to. He's, obviously, a different type of hitter and he can almost hurt you at any time."
The Blue Jays' lineup woke from its recent offensive slumber, pounding out six runs on seven hits against a tough pitcher in Angels right-hander John Lackey. Those marks were season highs for Lackey (6-2), who hadn't allowed more than three runs in any start this season and took a loss for the first time since May 25.
"We did a better job in key situations," Jays center fielder Vernon Wells said. "That's something we've been inconsistent with all year. Tonight was a good sign of what we need to do to get victories, especially against a pitcher of John Lackey's caliber."
Toronto's Alex Rios led the attack with three hits, including a two-run single with the bases loaded in the third inning, and three stolen bases. Wells added a critical two-run homer off Lackey in the fifth inning, giving Toronto a 5-2 lead a half-inning after Guerrero's shot off Halladay.
"It just gives you breathing room," said Halladay, referring to Wells' homer. "You don't expect to have that many runs to work with. To be able to get that and, obviously, a couple more after that was huge against a good team and a good pitcher."
The Blue Jays, who had only managed 13 runs in their previous five contests, scored once more in each of the sixth and seventh innings -- insurance runs that proved integral. Following Halladay's exit, the Angels made things interesting with a late rally against Toronto's bullpen.
Left-hander Scott Downs surrendered one run in the eighth inning and closer B.J. Ryan -- with no appearances since Sunday -- ran into trouble in the ninth. LA struck for two more runs against Ryan, who induced a game-ending flyout off the bat of Casey Kotchman to escape further damage.
It wasn't an ideal finish for the Jays, though it still preserved the victory for Halladay.
"Doc was the story again," Gaston said. "He pitched great."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less