Home run dooms Halladay, Jays
Ace battles Buehrle, but seventh inning proves decisive
CHICAGO -- It was another classic confrontation between two of baseball's gunslingers. It had been nearly two months since Toronto's Roy Halladay and Chicago's Mark Buehrle squared off, and the aces once again matched wits in a fast-paced pitchers' duel on Friday.
In the end, it wasn't even a mistake pitch that cost Halladay in a 2-0 loss to the White Sox. Chicago rookie Jerry Owens just happened to turn on an inside cutter fast enough to tuck it around the foul pole in right field for the decisive blow: a two-run home run in the seventh inning that put an end to the line of zeros dominating the scoreboard inside U.S. Cellular Field.
"Sometimes it's easier to look back on it when you know you made a mistake and you have a way to fix it," Halladay said after turning in his fourth complete game of the season. "But when you know it was the right pitch, it makes it tough. That's the hard part."
All Halladay (11-5) had to do was recall his outing on May 31 in Toronto to know that the slightest error could cost him against Buehrle. That was the last time the two hurlers faced each other, and the result was a 2-0 victory for the Blue Jays in a game that lasted just one hour and 50 minutes.
"Every time I've pitched against him, it's been a one- or two-run game," Halladay said. "So you know there's not going to be a lot of room. I don't think you pitch any differently; you're just aware of the fact that the little things can cost you. You always know that going in."
In the pitchers' last pairing, Buehrle took the loss after giving up two solo home runs -- the only hits Toronto managed in the win. In fact, the Chicago left-hander never worked with a runner on base, marking the first time in baseball history that a pitcher picked up a loss without working even once with a man on base.
This time around, Buehrle allowed 10 Blue Jays to reach base, but the southpaw wound up on the winning side in a contest that breezed to its finish in two hours and seven minutes. Entering this season, Buehrle and Halladay ranked first and second, respectively, among Major League starters in average time of game from 2002-06.
"I have the same philosophy every game: Win quick, lose quick," Buehrle said. "There is no reason to take your time out there. Any time you're facing a guy like Roy, you have to be dominant to give your team a chance. It's nice to be on the other side of the 2-0 decision. Everything evens out in the long run."
Toronto (51-52) notched eight hits against Buehrle (8-6), but the left-hander struck out six, induced 10 outs via ground ball and held the Blue Jays hitless with runners in scoring position. Toronto's best scoring opportunity came in the seventh inning, when Vernon Wells and Frank Thomas opened the frame with consecutive singles.
Buehrle followed by forcing Jays second baseman Aaron Hill to fly out to left field, which allowed Wells to advance to third base. That's as far as Toronto's center fielder reached, though. Jays first baseman Lyle Overbay followed by striking out and catcher Gregg Zaun grounded out to first to end the threat, stranding two Toronto runners in the process.
"That's certainly the mark of a top-notch pitcher like him," said Zaun. "He got real stubborn. He pitched very tough and continued to change his looks and change his speeds. I think he got me out three different ways today."
The White Sox (48-56) recorded at least one hit in seven of the eight innings turned in by Halladay, who has pitched two straight complete games. The former American League Cy Young Award winner struck out seven, induced 13 outs via grounder and held Chicago to a 1-for-10 mark with runners in scoring position.
"Both guys were great again tonight. What're you going to say?" said Toronto manager John Gibbons. "They each gave up hits. That's what the great ones do. When they get in trouble, they rise to that next level. That's why they're in that elite class. That's what separates them."
Halladay hardly appeared to be in trouble when Owens stepped into the batter's box in the home half of the seventh. White Sox rookie Danny Richar, who was called up from Triple-A Charlotte prior to the game, had just picked up a one-out single, and Owens came to the plate with no Major League home runs on his resume.
Halladay and Zaun agreed that the best way to approach the left-handed hitter was with a cut fastball on the inside portion of the plate, a pitch that had worked effectively earlier in the game against Owens. Perhaps that earlier look helped the center fielder anticipate that first offering, which flew off his bat and barely cleared the fence.
"We'd been pretty effective in there most of the day," said Zaun, referring to the location against Owens. "Give the kid a lot of credit. He took a ball that was probably five or six inches off the plate in and got enough wood on it to get it out of here."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.