TORONTO -- Given the unstable shape of the Blue Jays' starting rotation heading into next season, it is absolutely imperative that staff ace Roy Halladay continues to act as their anchor. That much is obvious.

In the Blue Jays' 6-3 win over the Red Sox on Saturday, Toronto manager Cito Gaston made sure to reinforce the notion, as he removed Halladay after six innings of work and 106 pitches.

The right-hander struggled with his command at times during his outing, but was aided by the Jays' offense and bullpen, both of which helped him to earn his 19th victory of the season. The triumph for Toronto allowed the club to match its 2007 win total with seven games remaining on the schedule.

Gaston said that he could have left Halladay in Saturday's contest for a little longer, but knowing the importance of his health, opted not to do so.

"It is [important]," Gaston said. "That's one of the reasons I got him out of the game today. I'll try to protect him in that way."

Halladay's status on Toronto's pitching staff has always been a key to the club's success. However, if possible at all, Halladay now means even more to the team due to the recent revelation that starter Shaun Marcum is in need of elbow surgery that will sideline him until the 2010 season.

Along with the Marcum, the Jays could also be without right-hander Dustin McGowan at the onset of next season, as he may not be ready to return from his shoulder surgery until at least May. The loss of these two, coupled with A.J. Burnett's possible departure as a free agent, makes Halladay's status all the more important.

Halladay for his part, says that he is completely healthy. The right-hander also refuses to concede that the loss of Marcum is "devastating" to the team's rotation in 2009.

"I hate to use devastating, but it obviously hurts," Halladay said. "He's a great pitcher. He did a great job for us. But you never know what the next season holds. [Starter] Jesse Litsch came out of nowhere. Who's to say we don't have guys do that next year.

"Hopefully we can still be competitive," Halladay added. "We have quality arms, and obviously our goal is to go out there and be competitive."

In his performance on Saturday, Halladay displayed his own competitiveness, while working without his best stuff on the mound. He allowed three runs on six hits, while walking three batters.

"He had to battle hard," Gaston said. "That's a tough team over there to beat. He did a good job. He got us through to the sixth inning."

Halladay was also helped largely by a Toronto offense, which took advantage of Boston starter Jon Lester's early struggles.

In the first inning, the Jays opened the game's scoring with an RBI single by Alex Rios. In the second inning, Toronto was able to net four runs off Lester to push its lead to 5-0.

With the bases loaded in the second frame, Marco Scutaro lined a double into the left-field corner that cashed in two runs. Jose Bautista and Rios also notched RBIs in the inning. After the second, though, the Jays' bats went quiet as they were held off the scoreboard until the eighth inning, when Scott Rolen lined a 2-2 pitch over the left-field wall for a solo home run.

The Red Sox made the game close in the third inning, when they managed to plate three runs against Halladay. David Ortiz singled to drive in a run, and then later scored on Jason Bay's two-run home run, cutting the score to 5-3.

"I don't think I was probably around the [strike] zone as much as I normally am," said Halladay. "So, I kind of compounded the problem for myself. But it's a good team. They're going to make you work either way and if you're not on top of it, you can be in for some long innings."

Halladay was removed after the sixth inning, and gave way to a trio of Toronto relievers -- Jesse Carlson, Brandon League and B.J. Ryan -- who managed to keep Boston off the scoreboard and preserve a win for their starter.

Halladay will now have the opportunity to go for his 20th win of the season in his next scheduled start, Thursday against the Yankees. Should he reach No. 20 this year, it would mark only the second time in his career he has done so, the first coming in 2003, when he notched 22 wins en-route to winning the American League Cy Young Award.

"It's obviously a great milestone," Halladay said. "It would mean a lot. But I think that it's always reflected more so on the team than anything. Today's a great example. You go six innings, give up three runs and get a win out of it."