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Doc is in: Halladay hangs 10 in shutout

Doc is in: Halladay hangs 10 in shutout

TORONTO -- All it took was a cutter to center fielder Mitch Maier, and any chance the Royals might have had against Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay was gone. Blue Jays first baseman Lyle Overbay fielded Maier's easy ground ball to first base, tagged the bag and jogged back to the dugout with Royals stranded at each base in the seventh inning.

Halladay pitched yet another gem for the Blue Jays, dismantling the Royals' offense for his first shutout of the season in Toronto's 4-0 victory over Kansas City on Sunday at Rogers Centre.

A pair of home runs provided more than enough run support for Halladay's 10th win -- the most in the Majors -- and a series win for the Jays.

"Day in and day out, everybody that gets on first base says he's the best," Overbay said. "The Yankees, the Red Sox, these guys. They're like, 'It's not fair.' Everybody gets on first base -- that's the first thing they say, 'He's the best.'"

For his second outing in a row, Halladay (10-1) pitched a complete game, during which only for a brief stretch in the seventh inning did he look less than totally dominant. Yet, the two outings were markedly different.

In Halladay's last game, against the Angels on Tuesday, he recorded a career-high 14 strikeouts -- as Los Angeles looked totally out of sorts. That effort required a career-high 133 pitches from Halladay, who needed 26 pitches to get out of a rough seventh inning.

On Sunday, though, Halladay showed the type of dominance that has been more typical for him. The Jays ace -- a contact pitcher who keeps his pitch count down by inducing ground balls -- took his reputation for machine-like efficiency to the next level against Kansas City, slicing through the Royals' lineup on only 97 pitches through nine innings. Halladay recorded 16 outs via ground ball while striking out six.

"[They're] just an aggressive team," Halladay said. "Early in the game, I just tried to show that we're going to get ahead and hopefully get them to start swinging early. We got some quick outs, fortunately, later on some one-, two-pitch at bats. I think that cuts down a lot."

Nowhere was Halladay's efficiency more evident than in the fifth and six innings, a span during which he induced four ground-ball outs and struck out two while needing only 15 pitches to retire the six batters.

Halladay also exhibited his typical command of the strike zone, as 73 of his pitches went for strikes. He did not issue a single walk while scattering seven hits.

As in Halladay's last start, the only hiccup came in the seventh. When the Jays faced Los Angeles on Tuesday, the Angels loaded the bases against Halladay with none out and managed to put four runs on the board in the same frame.

The Royals, too, loaded the bases in the seventh -- this time with one out. Miguel Olivo was the first to try and capitalize on the best situation the Royals found themselves in all game, but he took a fastball for a called strike, and he then swung and missed at an outside cutter. Halladay then threw his big, breaking curveball, and Olivo was gone, striking out on three pitches for the second time in the game.

Maier was up next, but Halladay went to his cutter again, sending Maier back to the dugout on a groundout with three runners stranded. Halladay retired the next six batters in order to bring the Royals' night to a merciful conclusion.

"That's your classic Doc Halladay right there," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. "Most pitchers, they wouldn't have escaped that.

"He'll just reach back and get a little more when he needs to. He rises to the occasion. That's just the sign of a superstar. They're like that, they kick it up a notch. They have a notch to kick up. Some of us don't have that notch to kick up."

The Jays could afford for Halladay to give up a couple of runs in that inning, as Toronto scored early and led for the entire game.

With the Jays on top, 1-0, after a sacrifice fly by center fielder Vernon Wells plated second baseman Aaron Hill in the first, Overbay extended his season-high hitting streak to 13 games by bouncing a 1-2 offering from Royals starter Kyle Davies off a window in Rogers Centre's second-deck restaurant to give the Jays a 2-0 advantage.

"That's the farthest ball I've ever it," Overbay said. "[Davies] obviously made a mistake. He was trying to go in and just left it out over the plate. It was up in the zone."

Hill snapped out of an 0-for-25 slump with the Jays' second home run of the game. After shortstop Marco Scutaro drew a walk to lead off the third inning, Hill lofted a 1-2 pitch from Davies into the Jays' bullpen for a two-run shot, giving Toronto a 4-0 lead that would hold up for the rest of the game.

The win brings a six-game homestand to an end on a positive note, as the Jays now head to Texas for a four-game series. Luckily for the Rangers, they will not see Halladay during the trip.

Overbay believes that, as good as Halladay has been this season, he's not yet reached his peak.

"I don't think he's had his best," Overbay said. "These last couple of ones he has, but even before that. ... He hasn't had his stuff yet, and he's still able to dominate. It's scary, because he can dominate. With the bases loaded and one out, he just stepped it up another notch. It's scary what he can do."

For Gaston, Halladay's ability to pitch out of jams like he did in the seventh is part of what separates him from the pack.

"You talk about Hall of Famers -- you put Doc in that same category with these guys," Gaston said. "And if he stays healthy, he will be one."

Erika Gilbert is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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