07/11/08 11:36 PM ET
In All-Star form, Halladay two-hits Yanks
Righty hurls seventh complete game of '08, 11th career shutout
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
On Friday, the Blue Jays' ace silenced the Yankees in a 2-0 gem in Toronto, adding to the argument that perhaps Halladay deserves to take the hill as the AL's starter for the upcoming exhibition. That'd certainly have the potential to sway Halladay's opinion of New York's home, the host of Tuesday's Midsummer Classic.
"It'd be a tremendous honor," Halladay said. "There are a lot of great pitchers out there and a lot of deserving pitchers, so it would be an honor. It's just one of those things you can't control, and I'm just going to go and enjoy it."
Red Sox manager Terry Francona, who is at the helm for the AL this year, is due to announce his starting pitcher on Monday. The pick is likely down to either Halladay or Cleveland left-hander Cliff Lee -- both of whom took the mound on Friday and ran off a line of zeroes against their respective opponents.
Halladay's latest effort for Toronto (46-47) was stellar, resulting in yet another complete game for the right-hander. The nine shutout innings Halladay logged against the potent Yankees lineup was the Major League-leading seventh time he went the distance this season, matching his baseball-best total from all of last year.
With the victory over New York, Halladay improved his record to 11-6 with a 2.71 ERA this season. Lee, who blanked Tampa Bay for six frames on Friday, is now 12-2 with a 2.31 ERA. Justin Duchscherer (10-5, 1.78) of the A's and Joe Saunders (12-5, 3.07) of the Angels are also candidates to start the All-Star Game, though unlikely to earn the nod, considering they each are set to take their turn in the rotation on Sunday.
Prior to Halladay's outing against the Yankees, Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi was asked if the horse of his staff should receive the honor.
"I don't know," Ricciardi said with a shrug. "Cliff Lee has had a pretty good year. There's some guys that are having some good years. Obviously, I'm biased. I'd want Doc starting, but it's not my call."
Halladay, who now has two shutouts this season and 11 in his career, definitely has the credentials.
Beyond the seven complete games this season, the 2003 AL Cy Young Award winner has turned in 33 since 2003 -- more than any other pitcher in baseball. He struck out eight Yankees in his latest start, upping his season total to 121, which is second in the league to only CC Sabathia -- now with the Brewers in the National League.
The nine innings against New York (49-44) increased Halladay's Major League-leading total to 146 1/3 and the lone walk he issued was just his 21st free pass of the year. That represents the best strikeout-to-walk ratio in baseball (5.76). Halladay peppers the strike zone, tempting hitters to swing and leaving them in awe.
"He never throws a ball over the middle of the plate," Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said. "He goes corner-to-corner as good as any pitcher in the game. I've said it before, he's probably the best starter in baseball."
Halladay didn't require much aid on this night, but the Jays provided more than enough support against New York's Joba Chamberlain (2-3). Toronto plated a pair of runs in the third inning and one more against Chamberlain in the sixth, when catcher Rod Barajas launched a solo home run.
The home run was fun, but Barajas enjoyed catching Halladay more.
"The home run, it's 10 seconds or 15 seconds," Barajas said. "When you're able to go out there and get 27 outs and have him pitch the way he did, it was easy for me. I called a pitch and he made me look good.
"He was incredible today. Every pitch was located where we wanted it. When we got ahead in the count, nothing was left over the plate. It was in the dirt or off the plate. It was the perfect pitch -- on the corner. It was fun. He was absolutely amazing tonight."
In the eighth inning, the Jays gave Halladay a five-run cushion, courtesy of a two-run homer off the bat of designated hitter Matt Stairs. With Halladay on the hill, that type of lead can seem cavernous to overcome, and the Yankees looked downright helpless in the batter's box.
Halladay scattered just two hits in the victory and was helped along by a handful of strong plays behind him.
Joe Inglett, filling in as the right fielder, made a spectacular diving grab to steal a hit away from New York's Melkly Cabrera in the fifth inning. Second baseman Marco Scutaro and shortstop John McDonald later combined for one of the best plays of the Jays' season.
With one out in the eighth, Wilson Betemit chopped a pitch from Halladay up the middle, where Scutaro made a backhanded stab at the ball. Using his glove, Scutaro flipped the ball to McDonald, who spun and relayed a perfect throw to retire Cabrera at first.
The play even forced a smile from the always-stoic Halladay.
"I didn't know what he was doing, to be honest with you," said Halladay, referring to Scutaro. "It's just a heads-up play by both of them -- Johnny Mac anticipating it. It's a great play -- something you don't see very often."
Having a Blue Jays pitcher start an All-Star Game is a rare sight as well. The last Toronto pitcher to do so was David Wells in 2000, joining Dave Stieb (1983-84) as the only Jays pitchers to receive the honor in franchise history.
Halladay has an opportunity to join that group.
"He certainly has a chance to do it -- that's for sure," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. "I'm not sure what Terry's going to do, but Doc's certainly a candidate for it."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.