Halladay, Jays undone by poor defense
Toronto struggles to put together rally against Cleveland's Byrd
TORONTO -- Heading into Saturday's game at Rogers Centre, the pitching matchup between the Blue Jays and Indians seemed quite lopsided. Toronto had ace Roy Halladay on the mound, while Cleveland countered with veteran right-hander Paul Byrd.
Halladay, on the one hand, sits atop the American League in many pitching categories, while Byrd has posted a sub-.500 record with a bloated ERA. Yet, as has been the case on many occasions for the Jays during the year, things didn't work out as expected.
Toronto played subpar defense and couldn't provide run support, while Halladay was clearly not at his best as the Jays fell, 4-2, to the Indians. After a four-game sweep of Oakland earlier in the week, Toronto (59-58) has now dropped back-to-back games.
Halladay, who allowed a hit in six of the seven innings he pitched in, was forced to battle his way in and out of jams throughout his whole outing. The shaky defense did not help matters much, creating situations where Halladay (13-9) had to expend many more pitches than usual.
The right-hander ended his start having thrown a career-high 130 pitches. His previous mark was 126, which he accomplished three times in his career, the last coming Aug. 4, 2007, against Boston.
"We didn't play too well behind him today," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. "It cost him a lot of extra pitches that he had to throw. We don't like to take him that far in terms of pitch count, but we were certainly trying to give him an opportunity to win that game."
The fact that Halladay threw so many pitches could be a cause for concern, especially considering the number of innings he has logged this year. His 182 innings pitched this season lead the Majors.
Halladay did not seem concerned, though.
"Physically, I feel fine," he said. "You just prepare yourself -- the only thing you do different is vary your work in between starts. I've never had a problem with the pitch counts, it's just a matter of being smart in between and adjusting your workloads.
"I didn't feel physically tired. I felt like I was still able to make a pitch if I had to."
"We talked to him," Gaston said. "Doc, he always wants to go out there, no matter what. It's one of those things where he's thrown a lot of innings this year, so that'll probably be the last time you see him out there for that many pitches."
Halladay did manage to get through the first three innings without allowing a run to score. In the fourth, though, Toronto made the first of two errors which contributed to Cleveland (51-64) runs.
Leading off the fourth inning, Tribe outfielder Shin-Soo Choo sent a pitch from Halladay deep into left-center field. Jays right fielder Alex Rios ran the ball down and managed to catch up to it with his outstretched glove. The ball deflected off the heel of his glove and onto the ground, though, giving Rios an error and allowing Choo to reach second base. The Indians were able to make the Jays pay later in the frame, when Choo scored on a double from Ryan Garko.
In the sixth inning, Toronto's defense made another mistake, which paved the way for three more runs to score. With a runner on first base, Choo hit a grounder to Jays shortstop John McDonald, who fielded it cleanly. However, McDonald's high throw brought Joe Inglett off the second-base bag, giving the Indians runners on first and second with none out.
Cleveland went on to score two runs in the inning on singles from Garko and Andy Marte. Halladay then surrendered a third run by issuing a bases-loaded walk to David Dellucci.
The walk was what bothered Halladay the most.
"The biggest thing was the walk with the bases loaded," said Halladay, who also dismissed mention of the team's shaky defense.
"It makes it tougher, but you're talking about one or two plays," he said. "That shouldn't make that much of a difference. [The Indians] added basehits on top of it. That's what wears you out and makes it a grind.
"Unless you're giving up six or seven errors, you feel like you should be able to work out of it. It's just a matter of making quality pitches when you have to."
Over his 6 2/3 innings of work, Halladay allowed four runs -- one earned -- on 10 hits. He walked two and struck out six. Byrd, on the other hand, outpitched the Jays starter by making quick work of Toronto's hitters.
The Jays' offense could not do much against Byrd (7-10), who tossed his first complete game of the season.
The only runs Toronto could muster came from a sacrifice fly from Marco Scutaro in the first inning and an RBI double from Brad Wilkerson in the second. After those early runs, Byrd settled down masterfully and finished the game having retired 20 of the final 22 batters he faced.
"He got ahead and threw a lot of strikes," said Halladay. "You have to be aggressive, and when he's doing it with all his pitches, it makes it tough.
"It was a great job of pitching."
David Singh is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.