There is no denying that this has been a draining season on Halladay, though. From the Blue Jays' slide in the American League East standings to the trade rumors that followed the pitcher last month to his stay on the disabled list earlier this season, it has been a year that has been physically and mentally exhausting for Halladay.
Dating back to June 12, the Blue Jays (57-66) have lost nine of the 12 games that Halladay has started. Over his past two outings, Halladay (13-7) has surrendered 11 earned runs on 20 hits over just 11 innings, representing his worst two-start stretch since giving up 16 earned runs between May 5-10, 2007.
The Rays (68-56) have defeated the Jays in four of the fives games they have been charged with the task of facing Halladay this season. On Monday, Tampa Bay tagged Halladay for 12 hits -- matching the most he has allowed in a start in his career -- and eight runs -- seven earned. Halladay had not allowed more than five earned runs in his previous 78 outings.
"[Halladay] is arguably the toughest pitcher in the game," Rays first baseman Carlos Pena said. "His stuff is nasty. I mean, it's very hard to just make contact. So it does feel good to come out on top, because we know we're going up against the best."
Halladay -- picked by Rays manager Joe Maddon to serve as the American League's starting pitcher in the All-Star Game in July -- looked quite human when he allowed a two-run home run to Pena in the fifth inning that put the Blue Jays behind, 8-6. An inning earlier, aided by a throwing error by Toronto right fielder Travis Snider, Tampa Bay struck for three runs to pull the game into a 3-3 tie.
It was a rare lapse from a pitcher who has made a living protecting slim leads.
After the Rays jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning behind five hits, including a pair of bloop singles, the Jays answered with six runs between the second and third frames. Highlighting the offensive outpouring was Toronto catcher Rod Barajas, who belted a grand slam off Tampa Bay rookie Jeff Niemann in a five-run second.
"Everything looked pretty good up to that point," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. "That's something that you don't expect. When Doc gets a lead like that, most of the time he's able to hold on to it. Tonight, he was not able."
Halladay's struggles helped Niemann (12-5) escape with a win despite allowing six runs -- five earned -- on eight hits over 6 1/3 innings. Toronto tried to rally, cutting its deficit to 9-7 with a solo homer from rookie designated hitter Randy Ruiz in the eighth. Tampa Bay, which received a solo homer from Ben Zobrist in the seventh, managed to answer by notching three runs in the ninth to put the game out of reach.
It did not help that the Jays continued to look sloppy in the field, making their ninth error in the past eight games. Such miscues forced Halladay to use more pitches, contributing to an early exit. In fact, with only six innings against the Rays, it marked the first time since July 6-12, 2007, that Halladay turned in fewer than seven innings in back-to-back starts not shortened by injury.
Adding to Halladay's frustration was the fact that the Rays jumped out to an early lead without really hitting him hard in the opening inning.
"It seems like it's that way when you're scuffling a little bit," Halladay said. "It just gets back to making pitches. It really does. It's that simple. When you don't, they cost you. That's really all I can say. You go back and work and figure out ways to always improve and make it better, but it was a lot of my mistakes that cost me."
For Halladay, there were no excuses.
"Just make pitches -- that's my job," he said. "Focus on making pitches. That's it."