Had it not been for a solo home run by Oakland's Bobby Crosby in the eighth inning, Gaston might've left Halladay alone for nine innings. Halladay's pitch count had climbed to 113 after eight impressive frames, though, convincing Toronto's skipper to let the bullpen finish the job this time.
That's about the only managing that Gaston is required to do when it comes to Halladay, who would've gladly taken the ball in the final inning for the Blue Jays (56-56). Instead, the leader of Toronto's rotation had to settle for eight, in which he struck out eight and scattered four hits.
"It's going to be real tough to take him out if he still had a shutout going," Gaston said. "I probably would've let him go out there, but I certainly would've had somebody up [in the bullpen]. I didn't want him to get in the 125-130 pitches. He's thrown a lot of pitches and a lot of innings."
Halladay smiled when asked if he thought about trying to going the distance against the A's (53-58), who had a seven-game winning streak in Toronto snapped.
"You dont get really caught up in the complete games and all that stuff," said Halladay, who leads the Majors with seven complete efforts and 175 1/3 innings this season. "You always want to go out -- it's just a matter of knowing when to be smart."
In his two tours as Toronto's manager, Gaston has worked with a handful of ace pitchers, including Roger Clemens, Dave Stieb and David Cone, among others. Gaston is quick to place Halladay "right there at the top" of the list of pitchers he's managed in his time with the Jays.
Gaston said Halladay is easily the most focused pitcher among that group.
"I got here today and Doc was probably already here," Gaston said. "You walk in that video room and he's watching tapes, or whatever, and you could stand there for a half hour and he won't know you're there, because he's concentrating and trying to get the job done."
It's easy to see why Gaston holds Halladay in such high regard, too.
Featuring a sharp curveball in the win over the A's, Halladay lowered his season ERA to 2.77 -- the third-lowest mark in the American League. Halladay's 13-8 record moves him into a tie for the second-highest win total in the league -- a spot he shares with Blue Jays starter A.J. Burnett.
Halladay's eight strikeouts against Oakland also raised his season total to 149, giving him more strikeouts in a season than he's had since fanning 204 in 2003 -- the year he captured the AL Cy Young Award. Currently, only Burnett (153) ranks higher than Halladay in the league in that category.
"We've tried pitching guys a little bit differently," Halladay said of his rising strikeout total. "Guys get used to you pitching the same way and you mix things up and do some different things. I think it kind of sometimes goes that way, but it's not something I've ever focused on."
One area that's been completely out of Halladay's control is the amount of run support he receives each time he takes the hill. The six runs he was given to work with against the A's was a rare gift, considering Halladay entered the game averaging just 3.7 runs of support per outing.
Toronto pushed those six runs across home plate in unique fashion, too.
Twice, A's starter Sean Gallagher (1-1) hit a Jays batter with the bases loaded to bring in a Toronto run. The Jays also plated one run each on a sacrifice fly, a passed ball and a fielder's choice groundout. Among all the unusual runs was a run-scoring single from Matt Stairs in the third inning.
"Hey, we'll take it," said Gaston, chuckling in response to his club's strange rally. "You never know in this game. That's what makes this such a great game -- you see something different all the time."
Halladay certainly enjoyed the early cushion, which helped him settle in against the A's. On multiple occasions this season, Halladay has been burned by a lack of run support. In his eight losses, the right-hander has received an average of just 1.8 runs per start, putting added pressure on the ace.
That's one reason Gaston believes Halladay's record this year doesn't properly indicate how well he's pitched.
"A few more runs certainly would've made a big difference," Gaston said.