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Blips early and late costly to Halladay

Blips early and late costly to Halladay

TORONTO -- Roy Halladay did not want to answer questions about the tiresome trade saga that dominated every discussion with the pitcher for much of the past month. Asked what he'd like to see his ballclub do over the season's final two months, though, the Blue Jays ace quickly shot back his reply.

"Win," grunted Halladay, following a 5-3 loss to the Yankees on Tuesday night at Rogers Centre. "That's the reason you're here. I don't think at any point you can pack it in and work on things. You have to come out every day to try and win. That's what it comes down to.

"We've got to find ways to do that. That's most important. That's what it's all about at this level. It's not a development -- the goal is to win."

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If not for a push to the playoffs down the stretch, the Blue Jays can at least find motivation for pumping out as many wins as possible in an effort to convince Halladay that he is in the right situation. Halladay has reached the stage of his career where reaching the postseason is the primary goal, and he knows that might not happen with Toronto.

In essence, that is what led Halladay to inform the Jays last month that he wants to wait until his contract expires after the 2010 season to decide whether to test free agency or consider an extension. In turn, that pushed the club to explore dealing the face of its franchise prior to Friday's non-waiver Trade Deadline. No team presented a large enough offer, so Toronto clung to its ace.

The Blue Jays now have Halladay in the fold for at least the rest of this season. Trade rumors will undoubtedly fly over the offseason, but Toronto believes it can contend next year with Halladay leading its rotation. As things currently stand, the fourth-place Jays (51-55) sit 13 games behind the Yankees (64-42) in the increasingly difficult American League East.

Halladay does not feel that large deficit is any reason for the Jays to limp to the finish line.

"Everybody is well aware of where we're at," Halladay said. "But I think that can never play into it. If you're up 10 or down 10, I think your approach has to be the same. You have to go out and try to win every game. ... I think there's enough motivation for us to go out and play well. I don't think that just because we're 10 or 12 games out, that's any less reason to go out and play hard."

Halladay was visibly frustrated following his latest performance.

After logging nine innings in a losing effort, Halladay sat at his locker, hands on the back of his neck as he peered at the ground. When he was surrounded by reporters, Halladay did the honorable thing and shouldered the blame, even on a night that his offense once again went quiet with Toronto's horse on the hill.

Halladay (11-5) gave up five runs (four earned) and scattered 10 hits. The right-hander issued no walks and never slipped to a three-ball count to any of the 36 batters he faced, but he did yield three home runs in a four-hitter span late in the game. After Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeira connected for back-to-back shots in the eighth, Halladay allowed another blast to Hideki Matsui to open the ninth.

"It's bad pitches," said Halladay, who has allowed back-to-back home runs only twice in his 12-year career. "I don't know what to tell you. I just didn't execute, especially late, and it cost me."

Halladay also allowed two runs in the first inning. Alex Rodriguez delivered an RBI double and later scored on a throwing error by Jays first baseman Kevin Millar -- a toss bobbled by Halladay as he hustled to cover first.

The bigger problem was the continued lack of support when Halladay has taken the mound.

The three runs that the Blue Jays managed actually matched the most they had scored for Halladay in a game over his past five outings. Over his past seven starts, Halladay has gone just 1-4 with a 3.00 ERA. During that period, though, Toronto has provided an average of 2.6 runs of support per game, leading to a 1-6 record in those contests.

"Most of the time, we're not scoring runs for him," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. "We just haven't scored runs for him like we have for some of the other guys that go out there. Early in the season, we were scoring runs for him. As of lately, we just haven't done it."

That made a winner of left-hander Andy Pettitte (9-6), who allowed only a run-scoring sacrifice fly to Toronto's Alex Rios over his 6 2/3 innings. The Blue Jays also scored twice on an eighth-inning double from Vernon Wells, who pulled a pitch from Yankees closer Mariano Rivera to the wall in left field to cut the Blue Jays' deficit to 4-3.

Other than that, the Jays stranded eight runners and finished 1-for-8 with men in scoring position. That was characteristic of Toronto's past 20 losses, which have all been by a count of three runs or fewer. Over Halladay's past seven appearances, the Jays have lost three games by one run, two by two runs and one by three.

It has been a stretch that has made every pitch critical for Halladay.

"The mistakes cost you more," Halladay said. "It doesn't change the way you go about your job -- you continue to go about it the same way -- but you definitely know that in runs like that -- in streaks like that -- you make mistakes, and they can be costly.

"Sometimes, you're going well -- you're scoring -- and you can get away with things like that. Other times, you can't. That's kind of the way it's been."

The issue is that for the most part, it has been that way since Toronto stormed out of the gates with a 27-14 record this season. Since then, the offense has stalled, and the club has gone 24-41. Halladay wants nothing more than to see that considerable slide come to an end.

"You've got to find ways to get over it," Halladay said. "For the most part, we're all trying to find ways to get better and continue on. You're going to have points where things don't go your way and it seems like you can't do anything right, but you've got to keep moving. You've got to keep getting better."

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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